Former Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman attends court in Jerusalem today.
Former Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman attends court in Jerusalem today.

The trial of former Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman on fraud charges began on Sunday 17 February in Jerusalem.

The leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party also faces charges of breach of trust, after allegations that he secured promotion for the Israeli ambassador to Belarus Zeev Ben Aryeh, in exchange for information on a separate criminal investigation into his affairs.

The former nightclub bouncer pleaded not guilty to all charges and has vowed to restore his reputation.

The outspoken right-winger resigned his position as foreign minister at the end of last year when he was indicted following a 12-year criminal investigation in the wake of a financial scandal.

Lieberman's party ran on a list with the Likud party to claim a narrow victory in last month's general election. However, the list secured only 31 of 120 seats in the Israeli Knesset, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently attempting to forge a coalition.

On Sunday 17 February Lieberman attended a procedural and plea hearing before three judges, where future dates for the trial were set.

Lieberman, who retains his position as an MP, said in a radio interview earlier this year that he would resign from politics if convicted of the charges. He has also said that he will be vindicated and reinstated to his cabinet post.

He migrated to Israel from  the former Soviet Union and has gained a reputation as a fierce critic of the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas.

If he is convicted of crimes of 'moral turpitude' and sentenced to jail, he could be banned from serving as a minister for seven years.

Netanyahu is serving as interim foreign minister, and is reportedly keen to reinstate Lieberman.