The mayor of an Arab town in central Israel was sentenced Wednesay to 20 months in prison for extortion and criminal conspiracy.
Kalansua Mayor Mahmoud Khadija was also fined 100,000 shekels ($25,610).
An associate — Dr. Yosef Meri, a dentist — was sentenced to six months’ community service and fined 30,000 shekels.
In explaining her sentencing decisions, Judge Varda Meroz of the Lod Central District Court cited the severity of the offenses and the damage they caused as well as the need to demonstrate the importance of integrity in public officials.
In order to bring a “rebellious” councilman to heel, Khadija and Meri arranged for a woman to meet with him. They photographed the two of them together and then threatened to show the photos to the councilman’s wife if he refused to obey Khadija.
Khadija was also convicted of taking a $5,000 bribe from a construction contractor.
In a related story, Kiryat Shmona Mayor Nissim Malka was questioned Wednesday by detectives from the police fraud investigation department. He is suspected of taking a bribe and obstruction of justice, police spokesmen said Wednesday.
Malka was released to house arrest for five days and barred from city hall for 15 days.
Municipal executive director Eshkol Shukrun was also questioned. Police say he is suspected of taking a bribe and not reporting contributions he received in exchanged for advancing the donors’ interests in the city. He was also released to house arrest and barred from city hall.
Malka’s attorney, Avi Himi, told Haaretz the mayor’s conduct was “impeccable.” He said the suspicions were “negligible. Malka didn’t deal with donations and didn’t give perks to anyone.”
“The mayor denies all the suspicions…A handful of conspirators, whose whole purpose is to remove him from office,” a statement from the mayor said. “The mayor intends to serve the city’s residents successfully and relies on the police to get to the truth.”
Shukrun also denied the suspicions but refrained from commenting on the details due to the ongoing investigation.
“Let the police investigate and get to the truth,” he said.