Israeli police again question Netanyahu on corruption allegations

Israeli police have recommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges in two other cases. (AFP)
Updated 17 August 2018
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Israeli police again question Netanyahu on corruption allegations

  • Two police vehicles arrived on Friday at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence
  • Media reported that Netanyahu is to be questioned over a corruption case involving Israel’s telecom giant

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went through a new round of questioning on Friday, police said, amid graft allegations that have threatened to topple him.
The premier was questioned at his official residence in the context of investigations by the national economic crimes unit, a police statement in Hebrew said.
It gave no further details.
Investigators arrived at the premier’s Jerusalem residence in the morning to interview him over allegations of corruption involving local telecoms giant Bezeq and its largest shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, according to Israeli media reports.
It was the 12th time Netanyahu has been questioned in various cases, either as a suspect or a witness.
In the Bezeq case, Netanyahu is alleged to have sought favorable coverage from another Elovitch company, the Walla news site, in exchange for government policies that could have benefited the mogul’s interests to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
After a previous round of questioning in July, Netanyahu’s office said there was no such trade-off.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu has never made a deal with Elovitch in exchange for supportive coverage,” it said, adding that the Walla site had consistently covered the premier “in a hostile manner.”
Elovitch was arrested in February along with six other people including Nir Hefetz, a former media adviser to the Netanyahu family.
In addition to the premiership, Netanyahu also held the communications portfolio between November 2014 and February 2017, covering the run-up to the March 2015 elections, when he is alleged to have made the deal with Elovitch.
Netanyahu was interrogated for more than five hours in July, reportedly over the same affair.
In a separate case, his wife Sara was charged in June with misusing state funds to buy catered meals costing $100,000 (85,000 euros) by falsely declaring there were no cooks available at the premier’s official residence.
In February, police recommended the premier be indicted in two cases, though the attorney general has yet to decide whether to do so.
Netanyahu, prime minister for around 12 years in total, has maintained his innocence in all of the cases, talking of a “witch hunt” and saying he was determined to stay in his job.
He would not be legally obliged to resign if charged.
So far his coalition partners have stood by him despite the allegations, but the investigations have gradually ratcheted up speculation over whether he will eventually be forced from office.


Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

Syrian children are pictured at a refugee camp in the village of Mhammara in the northern Lebanese Akkar region on March 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2019
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Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

  • UN official stresses ‘urgent need to ensure’ their ‘safe, voluntary and dignified return’
  • Some 215,000 Syrian students are currently enrolled in Lebanon's schools 

BEIRUT: Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about reports that Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon face torture and murder.

This coincides with a debate in Lebanon about whether Syrian refugees should return without waiting for a political solution to the conflict in their country. 

UN Special Coordinator Jan Kubis stressed after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday the “urgent need to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees home, according to international humanitarian norms.” 

Kubis added: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible. Another very important message was also to support the host communities here in Lebanon.”

Mireille Girard, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday said: “The reconstruction process in Syria may not be enough to attract refugees to return. We are working to identify the reasons that will help them to return.”

She added: “The arrival of aid to the refugees is an element of trust that helps them to return. Their dignity and peaceful living must be ensured.”

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumdjian said the Lebanese General Security “issued lists containing the names of refugees wishing to return to their homes, but the Syrian regime accepted only about 20 percent of them.”

He added: “The solution is to call on the international community to put pressure on Russia, so that Moscow can exert pressure on (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to show goodwill and invite Syrian refugees to return to their land without conditions, procedures, obstacles and laws that steal property and land from them.”

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said: “The problem is not reconstruction and infrastructure, nor the economic and social situation. The main obstacle is the climate of fear and injustice in Syria.”

He added: “There are 215,000 Syrian students enrolled in public education in Lebanon, 60,000 in private education, and there are informal education programs for those who have not yet attended school to accommodate all children under the age of 18.” 

Chehayeb said: “As long as the displacement crisis continues, and as long as the (Assad) regime’s decision to prevent the (refugees’) return stands … work must continue to absorb the children of displaced Syrians who are outside education to protect Lebanon today and Syria in the future.”