MIDDLE EAST

Former Israeli minister Avigdor Lieberman cleared of graft charges

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 November, 2013, 9:13pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 November, 2013, 3:40am
AP

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Former Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman was acquitted of corruption charges yesterday, a verdict that paves the way for the far-right politician to return to the post.

Lieberman's ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party is allied with the right-wing Likud of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who kept open the foreign ministry portfolio for him while the trial was under way.

A Jerusalem court decided unanimously to acquit Lieberman, who had been charged with fraud and breach of trust over allegations he gave an Israeli diplomat an ambassador's post in exchange for a tip-off about a police investigation into his affairs.

"This chapter is now behind me," 55-year-old Lieberman said outside court. Prosecutors said they were weighing up whether to appeal.

Lieberman has been outspokenly sceptical of US-backed peace talks with the Palestinians, which resumed in July after a three-year impasse, saying that he thought any permanent deal "impossible".

His party has grown into one of Israel's largest political forces on the strength of votes from Moldova-born Lieberman's fellow immigrants from former Soviet republics.