In his first public speech since Aryeh Deri was found guilty
of accepting $155,000 in bribes, Rav Ovadia Yosef bitterly
denounced the judiciary as biased against Jewish tradition
and Torah-observant Jews. "To the secular judges, the Torah
is a thorn in their side. That is why what happened, happened
yesterday. It comes from hatred. When he [Judge Ya'acov
Zemach] spoke, everyone saw and heard the hatred coming from
Rav Yosef appeared with party leader Deri at a Shas
convention in Jerusalem, giving out certificates of merit to
outstanding yeshiva students. The event turned into an
expression of support for Deri, who could face up to seven
years in prison. The crowd waited eagerly for Rav Ovadia's
address, which came in the wake of a turbulent press
conference at Deri's home Wednesday night. At that time, Rav
Ovadia called Channel 1 reporter Nitzan Chen "hostile" and
forbade Deri from answering his questions. Chen was later
forgiven, and even received a blessing from Yosef.
Interior Minister Eli Suissa declared that Deri will lead the
party "wherever he is." Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry
declined to confirm reports that the prosecution will demand
a jail sentence for Deri. In addition to the bribery
conviction, Deri was convicted of aggravated fraud, and
breach of trust.
After the verdict Deri met with supporters who came to his
office with the media in tow. He proclaimed his innocence,
criticized the verdict, and condemned the police for
stigmatizing an entire sector of the population.
"After all, they didn't bring in the 1,500 policemen for me.
And the helicopters weren't for me either. They could have
put me in handcuffs and brought me to the courthouse if they
were scared of me. They know better than anyone else that our
supporters wouldn't hurt a fly, but they are trying to stick
this stigma on us," Deri said.
He said he is not convinced that the judges had received
death threats before the verdict and if they had, then he
said it may have been done as a calculated provocation, one
the media fell for.
He noted that Shas supporters had acted with restraint,
contrary to prevailing expectations.
Asked if he would consider including Deri in any future
coalition government, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said
he would first wait to hear the final decision of the Supreme
Court before making any pronouncements. "I think we should
wait for the process to be finished, and then I will answer
questions," said Netanyahu, speaking to reporters in
For now, Deri said he would continue to lead the party. "I
will appeal, I will fight. I know the full truth and am
convinced of my innocence," Deri said. "I continue to pray
that I will, with G-d's help, succeed in the appeal. I have
had nine difficult years; it will take another year and then
I hope it will be finished."
Deri ordered one of his lawyers, Nevot Tel-Tzur, to appeal
the decision to the High Court of Justice and not to wait
until sentence is handed down. The hearing of arguments for
sentencing will begin this Thursday.
Tel-Tzur, saying he was speaking in Deri's name, told the
court he disagreed with the verdict. "We reject the verdict,
totally and forcefully," he said.
The verdict encompasses 917 pages bound in two thick
According to the Judges, the case essentially boiled down to
whether or not Deri had accepted bribes from his friends.
"The details are innumerable," wrote the judges. "But the
affair is one. Its core: Did he receive bribes from the other
defendants for several years--in the form of money, trips
abroad, and help in purchasing apartments? The answer at the
end of the day is: yes."
The judges used harsh and unmitigated criticism of Deri's
behavior during the three-year investigation and the five-and-
After the trial, Deri consulted with close acquaintances in
his Jerusalem office and then went out to the hundreds of
followers who greeted him with singing and raised him aloft.
"If there had been a full vindication, I would have been
happier," Deri said. "But I must say that I bear no grudges
against any anyone, and surely not against the Borei
Olam. All this is for the good, and even if this isn't
evident today, it will be evident further on."
The cost of the trial reached $9 million, making it one of
the most expensive court cases held in Israel.
The donations for MK Deri were made through an action
committee in which Rav Ovadia Yosef, Rabbi Arye Gamliel and
Rabbi Moshe Maya are members.
The funds were donated mostly by foreign residents, a small
portion by Shas supporting Israelis and Deri's personal
supporters and friends.
Among the donators are the Safra brothers of Brazil, the
Safdia family of Brazil, and Israeli businessman Amnon
Dankner (who donated NIS 50,000).