Likud primaries candidate draws fire over past kidnapping conviction

Yoni Jorno, now a lawyer, forcibly took Filipino worker to airport in 2001, attempting to cover up acquaintance’s affair; he claims reports on matter are a plot by ‘leftist’ rivals

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Yoni Jorno, self-declared competitor in the upcoming Likud primaries, July 24. 2022. (Channel 12 screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Yoni Jorno, self-declared competitor in the upcoming Likud primaries, July 24. 2022. (Channel 12 screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A contender in the upcoming Likud party primaries drew fire Sunday after multiple Hebrew media outlets reported that he was charged and convicted of kidnapping a Filipino worker in 2001.

Yonatan (Yoni) Jorno, currently a lawyer, has declared that he is vying for the number 29 spot on the right-wing party’s electoral slate, which is reserved for a representative of Israel’s coastal plain.

That spot, according to current opinion polls, is virtually assured to be sufficient to enter the next Knesset following the November 1 election.

Jorno served three months of community service in place of a suspended sentence for his crime, according to the reports.

The incident occurred after an acquaintance of Jorno had an affair with the worker — identified in the reports as Evelyn — and Jorno wanted to keep the relationship quiet. The two forcibly took her to Ben Gurion Airport and physically prevented her from using a phone to call for help, the reports said.

Eventually, Evelyn managed to call the police from the terminal and alert authorities, the reports added, without providing more details on the case.

Zahava Galon and MK Yair Golan, who are competing for the leadership of the left-wing Meretz party, both criticized Likud in social media posts after the reports, both linking Jorno’s past legal troubles to opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s current ones.

In a tweet, Galon listed Netanyahu’s corruption charges and then, at the end, wrote “kidnapping.”

“Likud is a party hijacked by criminals. They must not be allowed to hijack the state,” she added.

Golan tweeted: “There is no doubt that the emerging Likud list for the next Knesset looks like a convention of criminals. What’s the wonder, really? There is a personal example from the boss.”

Jorno uploaded a video in response to the reports, claiming that since the kidnapping — which he admitted had been foolish — he has not committed any crime and that his record has been clear.

Jorno, who as a lawyer represented police officers accused of violence against anti-Netanyahu protesters, said: “All the leftists, who charged that I silenced them at Balfour, that I represent police, that I silence them and don’t give them freedom of expression, they all rose up against me.”

He said that during previous runs for office, he faced similar treatment.

“This is what they did in 2011 when I competed for chair of the Student Union, five years ago when I ran for the Netanya city council, and again they are doing it now.”

“I won’t let a handful of leftists drag me down, so many have tried and failed, you will fail as well,” he wrote on Facebook.

Likud commented that Jorno has not officially submitted his candidacy for the race, scheduled for August 10.

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