Israel plans to indict powerful ultra-Orthodox politician

JERUSALEM (AP) β€” Israel’s attorney general plans to indict a powerful ultra-Orthodox politician on charges of obstruction of justice in connection with the long-delayed extradition of a former teacher accused of sexually abusing her students in Australia.

Yaakov Litzman, a former health minister, is accused of pressuring ministry employees to alter psychiatric evaluations to make it appear Malka Leifer was unfit to stand trial. She was extradited in January after a six-year legal battle that strained relations between Israel and Australia.

Both Litzman and Leifer are members of the country’s insular ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. Litzman, who is currently Israel’s housing minister, is also accused of using his influence to prevent a friend’s deli from being shut down over health concerns.

In a statement, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said Litzman allegedly used his position β€œto advance the interests of private individuals.”

Litzman has denied any wrongdoing, and will have an opportunity to plead his innocence at a hearing in the coming months before the charges are filed.

Litzman is a senior member of an ultra-Orthodox party that has been a key ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who himself is on trial for corruption. Netanyahu is currently fighting to remain in office following four inconclusive elections in two years.

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