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Netanyahu attorney: Police recommend his indictment

April 16, 1997
Web posted at: 1:58 p.m. EDT (1758 GMT)

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli police investigating an influence-trading scandal in the Israeli government have recommended that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted, according to his attorney.

Attorney Yaakov Weinroth confirmed reports on Israeli television this evening that police made the recommendation after concluding a 12-week investigation Tuesday.

CNN Correspondent Jerrold Kessel describes:
icon The Israeli government's reaction to today's events
(132K/12 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
icon The investigation
(294K/26 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

According to the Channel One television story, reported by the same journalist who originally broke the story in January, the investigators have recommended that Netanyahu be charged with fraud and breach of trust for his part in the appointment of an alleged political crony as attorney general.

Government officials allegedly appointed Roni Bar-On as Israel's top lawyer to gain favorable treatment of a political ally who faced corruption charges. The tradeoff was allegedly the support of the religious Shas Party for Israeli troop withdrawal from most of the West Bank town of Hebron.

Bar-On resigned a day after being appointed attorney general after a storm of criticism that he was not qualified for the job.

Israeli media reported Tuesday that police were recommending the indictments of three officials: Shas party leader Aryeh Deri, Netanyahu top aide Avigdor Lieberman and Justice Minister Tsahi Hanegbi.

Deri would reportedly be charged with blackmail and Lieberman and Hanegbi with breach of trust.

Netanyahu "did some puzzling things" in connection with the appointment, according to early reports about the police probe. State attorney Edna Arbel was reviewing the document, and was expected to announce a decision about indictments by Monday, the start of the Passover holiday.

"The informal reports show ... a lot of people with dirty hands," said an editorial in the daily Yediot Ahronot on Wednesday. "Whether it is criminal dirt or just political -- this is what the state attorney will have to decide."

The scandal threatens the coalition government headed by Netanyahu and his Likud Party. Israeli media speculated that the Shas Party would withdraw from the coalition if Deri is indicted, taking Netanyahu's parliamentary majority.

And four ministers, including Natan Sharansky of the Yisrael B'Aliya Party, and Transport Minister Moshe Katsav said earlier they would leave the coalition if the allegations were true.

Correspondent Jerrold Kessel contributed to this report.

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