JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli court on Wednesday found former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman innocent of all charges in a graft trial, clearing the way for the powerful hard-line politician to return to his post as the nation's top diplomat.
The trial had threatened to reshape the makeup of the government. But in the end, Lieberman was handed a resounding victory that instantly raises his clout in a bitterly divided coalition.
The verdict was delivered inside a closed courtroom, and minutes later, a jubilant Lieberman appeared outside.
"This chapter is behind me. And I am focusing on the challenges ahead, and there are plenty of challenges," he said, claiming he had been persecuted by overzealous prosecutors for 17 years.
Lieberman, an ally and sometime rival to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has long been dogged by allegations of corruption. This case was the first time he had been accused of criminal behavior.
Lieberman was charged with fraud and breach of trust for allegedly trying to advance the career of a former diplomat who relayed information to him about a separate criminal investigation into Lieberman's business dealings.
Prosecutors said they respected the court's decision and would study it before deciding whether to appeal.
Lieberman was forced to step down as foreign minister before parliamentary elections early this year to face the charges.
Speaking to reporters after Wednesday's verdict, Lieberman refused to say whether he would return to the post.
But he is widely expected to do so. Since the January election, Netanyahu has left the job open, saying he would only fill it after the verdict in Lieberman's case.
Lieberman, who was born in the former Soviet republic of Moldova, is one of the most polarizing figures in Israeli politics. With a tough-talking message that has questioned the loyalty of Israel's Arab minority, criticized the Palestinians and confronted Israel's foreign critics, he has at times alienated Israel's allies while becoming an influential voice at home.
During his stint as foreign minister, he pushed a series of legislative proposals that critics said were discriminatory against Israel's Arab minority, including a failed attempt to require Israelis to sign a loyalty oath or have their citizenship revoked. He also embarrassed Netanyahu by expressing contrary views to the government, including skepticism over the odds of reaching peace with the Palestinians.
Before the January election, Lieberman led his nationalist Yisrael Beitenu into a merger with Netanyahu's Likud Party. But the alliance, meant to solidify a victory by Israel's hardline bloc, backfired and the combined list fared poorly.
Lieberman is considering whether to break up the alliance. Such a move could increase his influence since he could potentially rob Netanyahu of his parliamentary majority.
MONTREAL (AP) -- T.J. Oshie scored in the shootout to give the St. Louis Blues a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.
Alexander Steen and Chris Stewart scored in regulation for St. Louis, and Jaroslav Halak had 25 saves. Halak also turned away three shots in the shootout.
Rene Bourque and Michael Bournival scored for Montreal (8-7-1), and Carey Price made 30 saves.
The Blues outshot the Canadiens 32-27 overall.
Tomas Plekanec had a chance to win it in regulation for Montreal. He was awarded a penalty shot in the final minute, but missed the net high and wide.
St. Louis opened the scoring at 2:38 of the first period when Steen collected his NHL-best 13th goal of the season.
Blues captain David Backes got it started by stealing the puck from defender Douglas Murray, who was playing softly behind his own net. Backes pushed Murray down and passed the puck to a wide-open Steen, who beat Price over his left shoulder.
Montreal tied it at 5:38 of the second period. Andrei Markov drove hard to the net, colliding with Halak in the process. With Halak still shaken up, the puck fell to Bourque in the crease, and he converted from in close.
Bournival put the Canadiens in front at 14:49 with his fourth of the year. He intercepted a poor pass from Jay Bouwmeester in the St. Louis zone and quickly fired a slap shot between Halak's legs.
Stewart tied it again at 10:31 of the third period when he deflected a Kevin Shattenkirk blue-line shot off the post and past Price.
Halak returned to Montreal for just the second time since being traded to the Blues in 2010. He earned a shutout in his other trip to Montreal in January 2012, winning 3-0.
David Desharnais was out of the Canadiens' lineup after a slow start to his season. The 27-year-old forward, who recently signed a four-year contract extension, has one point in 15 games this season.
NOTES: The Canadiens were coming off back-to-back road losses to the Wild and Avalanche. ... Montreal was without injured players Daniel Briere, Brandon Prust, Alexei Emelin and Travis Moen. There is no timetable yet for their return.
St. Louis County Police asking for help to find a burglar who has hit Lutheran North High School for a fourth time.
The most recent incident occurred October 27. The suspect stole an Apple desktop computer from the school's counseling room. The suspect is described as a black man in his 30's. He has a mustache. The suspect was last seen wearing a green jacket, with a tan collar, gray jeans or Dockers, black shoes and black skull cap.
If you have any information on the burglary or suspect, please call Crimestoppers at 866-371-TIPS.
Many people complain about red light cameras, but statistics show that they are changing people's driving behaviors.
American Traffic Solutions, who installed the cameras across the city, recently analyzed the effects of the cameras. They say 84 percent of drivers who received and paid a citation, never got another one. They also say that cameras more than halved the number of citations issued each month.