Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

6 Nisan 5759 - March 24, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Deri Maintains Innocence, Vows to Fight Conviction

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

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 his throat."

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 Jerusalem.

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 volumes.

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- a-half-year trial.

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).

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