Former Israeli foreign minister Lieberman acquitted of corruption charges

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was acquitted of corruption charges on Wednesday, a verdict that paves the way for the far-right politician to return to the post.

Lieberman’s ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party is allied with the right-wing Likud of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who kept open the foreign ministry portfolio for him while the trial was under way.

A Jerusalem court decided unanimously to acquit Lieberman, who had been charged with fraud and breach of trust over allegations he gave an Israeli diplomat an ambassador’s post in exchange for a tip-off about a police probe into his affairs.

“This chapter is now behind me,” Lieberman told reporters in brief remarks outside the courthouse.

Prosecutors said they were weighing whether to appeal.

Lieberman has been outspokenly skeptical of U.S.-backed peace talks with the Palestinians, which resumed in July after a three-year impasse, saying that he thought any permanent deal “impossible”.

His party has grown into one of Israel’s largest political forces on the strength of votes from Lieberman’s fellow immigrants from former Soviet republics.

Lieberman is the latest in a string of Israeli politicians to have faced corruption charges in the past few years.

Ehud Olmert resigned as prime minister in 2008 after being indicted. He has since been acquitted of most of the charges against him.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller and Allyn Fisher-Ilan- Editing by Ari Rabinovitch)

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