Netanyahu’s wife admits criminal wrongdoing in meals catering case

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arrives in the Magistrate’s Court in Jerusalem on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 17 June 2019

Netanyahu’s wife admits criminal wrongdoing in meals catering case

  • Sara Netanyahu was ordered to pay a fine and compensation
  • Netanyahu was originally charged in June 2018

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, appeared in court on Sunday to admit criminal wrongdoing over the misuse of state funds to order catered meals, in a plea bargain carrying no jail time.
Under the agreement, a fraud charge was reduced to a lesser offense and she will pay the state 45,000 shekels ($12,490) in reimbursement and a 10,000 shekel ($2,775) fine.
According to the original indictment, Sara Netanyahu, along with a government employee, fraudulently obtained from the state more than $100,000 for hundreds of meals supplied by restaurants, bypassing regulations that prohibit the practice if a cook is employed at home.
Smiling broadly, Netanyahu faced a phalanx of cameras in the courthouse before the session got under way.
At the hearing, a judge ratified the plea deal, convicting her of the criminal charge of intentionally exploiting another person’s mishandling of state money for her own benefit, after prosecutors dropped the more serious offense of fraud.
“Do you understand what you admitted to?” the judge asked Netanyahu, 60. “Yes, I do,” she replied.
Israel’s YNet website published a photograph of what it said was a note from her husband, who was not in the court, that was passed to her during the session. “We will get through this, too. Be strong!!,” it said.
While the deal lifts a legal cloud over Sara Netanyahu, it has no direct bearing on the prime minister’s own troubles — three corruption cases in which he has denied wrongdoing.
In February, Israel’s attorney general said he intended to file fraud and bribery charges against Benjamin Netanyahu, pending a pre-trial hearing.
That session is set for early October, two weeks after a Sept. 17 general election that follows a ballot in April in which Netanyahu declared victory but failed to form a government.
In explaining the plea agreement to the court, prosecutors cited Mrs.Netanyahu’s clean record, the public humiliation she has suffered as a result of the case and the time that has passed — up to nine years — since the crimes were committed.
The government employee charged along with Netanyahu also reached an agreement with the prosecution and was fined 10,000 shekels.
Sara Netanyahu has elicited a multitude of headlines in the past over what family spokesmen have decried as an undeserved reputation for imperiousness.
Three years ago, a labor court found she had insulted and raged at household staff, and it awarded about $40,000 to the former chief caretaker of the prime minister’s residence in a civil suit against the government over alleged mistreatment and unfulfilled promises of tenure.


Turkey considering quitting treaty on violence against women

Updated 06 August 2020

Turkey considering quitting treaty on violence against women

  • The AKP will decide in the next week whether to initiate legal steps to pull out of the accord

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party is considering whether to pull Turkey out of an international accord designed to protect women, party officials said, alarming campaigners who see the pact as key to combating rising domestic violence.

The officials said the AKP is set to decide by next week whether to withdraw from the deal, just weeks after the vicious murder of a woman by an ex-boyfriend reignited a row over how to curb violence against women.

Despite signing the Council of Europe accord in 2011, pledging to prevent, prosecute and eliminate domestic violence and promote equality, Turkey saw 474 femicides last year, double the number seen in 2011, according to a group which monitors murders of women.

Many conservatives in Turkey say the pact, ironically forged in Istanbul, encourages violence by undermining family structures. Their opponents argue that the deal, and legislation approved in its wake, need to be implemented more stringently. The row reaches not just within Erdogan’s AKP but even his own family, with two of his children involved in groups on either side of the debate about the Istanbul Convention.

The AKP will decide in the next week whether to initiate legal steps to pull out of the accord, a senior party official told Reuters.

“There is a small majority (in the party) who argue it is right to withdraw,” said the official, who argued however that abandoning the agreement when violence against women was on the rise would send the wrong signals.

Another AKP official argued on the contrary that the way to reduce the violence was to withdraw, adding that a decision would be reached next week. The argument crystallized last month around the brutal killing of Pinar Gultekin, 27, a student in the southwestern province of Mugla, who was strangled, burned and dumped in a barrel — the latest in a growing number of women killed by men in Turkey.

Opponents of the accord say it is part of the problem because it undermines traditional values which protect society.

“It is our religion which determines our fundamental values, our view of the family,” said the Turkish Youth Foundation, whose advisory board includes the president’s son Bilal Erdogan. It called for Turkey to withdraw from the accord.

“This would really break Turkey away from the civilized world and the consequences may be very severe,” Gamze Tascier, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, told Reuters.

The Women and Democracy Association (KADEM), of which Erdogan’s daughter Sumeyye is deputy chairwoman, rejects that argument. “We can no longer talk about ‘family’... in a relationship where one side is oppressed and subject to violence,” KADEM said.

Many conservatives are also hostile to the principle of gender equality in the Istanbul Convention and see it as promoting homosexuality, given its principle of non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

Critics of the bid to withdraw from the pact say it would put Turkey further out of step with the values of the EU, which it has sought to join for decades.

“This would really break Turkey away from the civilized world and the consequences may be very severe,” Gamze Tascier, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, told Reuters.

Turkey would not be the first country to move toward ditching the accord. Poland’s highest court is to scrutinize the pact after a Cabinet member said Warsaw should quit the treaty which the nationalist government considers too liberal.

Turkish women’s groups were set to protest on Wednesday to demand better implementation of the accord, taking to the streets after an online campaign in the wake of Gultekin’s killing where they shared black-and-white selfies on Instagram.

Turkey does not keep official statistics on femicide. World Health Organization data has shown 38 percent of women in Turkey are subject to violence from a partner in their lifetime, compared to about 25 percent in Europe.

The government has taken measures such as tagging individuals known to resort to violence and creating a smartphone app for women to alert police, which has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times.