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Israel indicts former Foreign Minister Lieberman

Israel's Justice Ministry has formally indicted former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for breach of trust and fraud. If he were convicted, this would hurt his political future.

Avigdor Lieberman was accused of promoting an Israeli diplomat as ambassador to Latvia in 2009 after the diplomat had supplied Lieberman with information about a police investigation against him on corruption charges.

Lieberman denies any wrongdoing.

He resigned as a foreign minister, however, after he had been informed of the pending charges earlier in December, which was seen by some analysts as a tactical move.

The justice ministry later revised the initial wording, though not the charges, and submitted the indictment through the country's state attorney in a Jerusalem court on Sunday.

Lieberman emigrated to Israel from Moldova in 1978 at the age of twenty, and draws his electoral support mainly from Israel's Russian immigrant community. He became a leading figure in the Likud party in 1993, which he later left to form the ultra conservative Yisrael Beiteinu Party in 1999.

Lieberman lives in a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, and has triggered controversy at home and abroad.

This year he triggered accusations of racism when he questioned the loyalties of Israel's 1.5 million Arab citizens – a remark that also attracted conservative voters beyond his Russian-speaking electoral base.

A few weeks ago, Lieberman upset the European Union by saying it had not spoken out strongly enough in condemnation of calls by Hamas Islamists for Israel's destruction. He compared the EU's attitude to Europe's failure to stop Nazi genocide against Jews during World War Two.

Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu Party is running with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud in Israel's general election on January 22.

If Lieberman were found guilty in court, he would be banned from political office.

rg/jm (dpa, AP, Reuters)