Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks to the press after handing his resignation on December 16, 2012
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks to the press after handing his resignation before the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on December 16, 2012. Lieberman, who quit this month after been charged with breach of trust five weeks ahead of a general election, may have the charges against him toughened, the justice ministry said Sunday. © Gali Tibbon - AFP/File
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks to the press after handing his resignation on December 16, 2012
AFP
Last updated: December 23, 2012

Israel's Lieberman may face tougher charges

Israel's ex-foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, who quit this month after been charged with breach of trust five weeks ahead of a general election, may have the charges against him toughened, the justice ministry said Sunday.

Media reports said police will question Lieberman, head of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, this week in an inquiry relating to the promotion of Zeev Ben Arieh, Israel's former ambassador to Belarus.

"The media have published testimony by several anonymous sources on the process in the heart of the nominations committee of the foreign ministry," the justice ministry said in a statement.

"From the testimony, it is possible that Lieberman is implicated in promoting the ambassador to a level higher than that cited on the charge sheet," it said.

Israel's attorney general charged Lieberman on December 13 with fraud and breach of trust, but dropped more serious allegations.

"Before any final decision is taken on the charge, it has been decided to allow M. Lieberman to respond to the new information that has been collected," the ministry statement added.

Lieberman, 54, stepped down on December 14, saying he would fight the charges and could return to the political scene in time for the January 22 election.

Yisrael Beitenu is fighting the general election on a joint list with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rightwing Likud party.

The latest polls put the joint list far ahead of the opposition, and the question is not whether Netanyahu will lead the next parliament, but how many seats the joint list will ultimately win.

Lieberman has faced several investigations since 1996 on a number of fraud and corruption allegations but has never been convicted over them.

The Soviet-born former bouncer has courted controversy with his hardline stance on Israel's Arab minority, with critics accusing him of racism.

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