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Israel High Court sends Shas kingpin Deri to jail
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Israel's Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the ultra-Orthodox Shas party rabbi Aryeh Deri, a maker and breaker of governments, to begin a jail sentence in 11 days' time.
The ruling against the former Shas leader, 41, angered the party which champions lower-class Sephardic Jews like Deri who has origins in the Middle East and North Africa.
The court, led by Court President Aharon Barak, decided Deri would begin serving a three-year jail term for fraud and bribery on September 3, a court spokeswoman said.
Shas leader Eli Suissa accused the court of being part of an Ashkenazic elite with origins in Europe which he said had discriminated against Sephardic Jews since Israel was founded in 1948.
"Today the real revolution of Sephardic Jewry in Israel and the world begins," he told Israel Radio.
"The decision of the president of the High Court actually twisted the knife that has been stuck in the Sephardic back for 52 years," Suissa said.
Shas, with 17 seats in the 120-seat parliament, was until last month a linchpin player in Prime Minister Ehud Barak's ruling coalition.
But Shas, along with two other parties, deserted the government on the eve of last month's Camp David peace summit with the Palestinians, leaving the prime minister with a minority in parliament and fighting for political survival.
"Not the identity of the claimants but the weight of the claims is what determines the ruling," Aharon Barak wrote in his decision rejecting Deri's request for another hearing.
Prime Minister Barak, who on Sunday launched a campaign to eliminate some benefits given to ultra-Orthodox Jews, harshly criticized what he called Suissa's "unrestrained attacks."
"There's no mixing of a criminal conviction in a democratic state with a social protest," the prime minister said in a statement.
Deri has said he will not request a presidential pardon, now his only option to avoid sitting out his prison term.
"The truth will out in the end," said Deri, who for years has found himself in trouble with the law.
In the most serious charge against him, the court found last month that as director-general of the Interior Ministry and then interior minister, Deri took bribes from three associates, who were also convicted of bribery.
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