Former Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer issued a formal response in court via his lawyers, to charges of bribery leveled against him.
Prosecuting attorneys were not present at the hearing Sunday morning due to a prosecution service national strike.
The indictment against Ben-Eliezer, who served as a Labor Party MK between 1991-1999 and again from 2001-2014, was submitted by prosecutors in December 2015. Apart from bribery, he also stands accused of money laundering, breach of trust, fraud, and tax violations.
The charges relate to murky deals he allegedly struck with a number of Israeli businessmen, including Roi Mutzafi, who, according to prosecutors, gave Ben Eliezer NIS 760,000 while the latter was Minister of National Infrastructures, Energy, and Water Resources, in return for his help securing work permits for employees in an Egyptian textiles company.
But according to the defense statement on Sunday, the relationship between Ben-Eliezer and Mutzafi "were based on mutual respect, and nothing more," and had nothing to do with the former's political positions.
Defense attorneys added that the money he received was merely a loan, not a bribe, which he asked for "solely out of a desire to move to (another) residence which would (better) suit the deteriorating medical condition and medical needs" of their client. The former defense minister has been in ill health since around 2011.
Ben-Eliezer did admit that he received the funds via an intermediary – associate Charlie Judah – but denies having made any efforts to conceal them.
The case is still ongoing.