Sharon facing indictment for bribes

Pressures appear to be mounting to force Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon out of office. Many would like to see him depart.

Israel’s chief prosecutor, Edna Arbel, has prepared a draft of an indictment against Sharon to be presented to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. Mazuz must make the final decision on whether the 76-year-old Sharon will go on trial.

Israel’s Channel 2, which reported the indictment effort last Saturday, said it may take Mazuz months to decide whether he will accept Arbel’s recommendations. The Justice Ministry, which represents both Arbel and Mazuz, had no comment on the matter.

Sharon’s office said he would comment only after Mazuz decides about the indictment.

Some members of Sharon’s Likud Party and members of other political parties are calling on the prime minister to step down. Sharon has declared he has no such intention.

Prosecutors are accusing Sharon of accepting a bribe in connection with a real estate deal involving his son, Gilad, and developer David Appel, a Likud stalwart. They contend Appel hired Gilad Sharon in 1999 and paid him very sizeable sums to persuade his father, who was then foreign minister, to promote Appel’s real estate deals.

Sharon denies any wrongdoing as does Appel. Appel was charged in January with trying to bribe Sharon. The embattled prime minister, in recent months, has faced a barrage of allegations of corruption and misconduct concerning multiple scandals. Israeli police are investigating the several cases, but Sharon denies involvement in any of them.

Legal experts are split on the question of whether under the law, Sharon would be forced to resign if he is indicted. “Sharon must suspend himself—it is inconceivable for a prime minister to have an indictment against him,” said Menachem Klein, political analyst at Israel’s Bar Han University.

Another of the cases against Sharon alleges that his sons, Gilad and Omri, used a $1.5 million loan from a South African businessman to repay illegal contributions to Sharon’s campaign. Foreign financing of political campaigns is illegal in Israel.

March 28, Sharon’s cabinet was reportedly pressuring him to resign if he is indicted.


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