Court Extends Deadline for Netanyahu's Lawyers, Potentially Delaying Corruption Trial

Jerusalem court gives the prime minister's lawyers more time to file a response to the indictment against him, which may also delay the presentation of evidence, set to start on January

Netael Bandel
Bini Aschkenasy
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Prime Minister Netanyahu, right, at the Jerusalem District Court.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, with his lawyers at the Jerusalem District Court, May 2020.Credit: Amit Shabi
Netael Bandel
Bini Aschkenasy

The Jerusalem District Court on Thursday extended the deadline for the filing of a response the indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges. The deadline had been set for October 18 and has been deferred to November 29. That in turn might delay the beginning of the prosecution's presentation of evidence against the prime minister by a month and a half. It is currently scheduled to begin in January.

The change in the deadline on the response to the indictment followed objections filed by the prime minister's lawyers over the timing of a hearing in the case on their request for additional materials from the investigation of the prime minister. The court had scheduled the hearing for November 15, but the prime minister's lawyers, Boaz Ben Zur and Amit Hadad, pointed out that the deadline for their filing of their response to the indictment had been set for an earlier date, October 18.

"In light of the omissions that have been discovered in documents and due to the various flaws in the indictment, it would be difficult to raise preliminary arguments and to respond to the indictment without defense counsel having all of the required documents on the matter," the prime minister's lawyers wrote, adding that their request "was not meant to result in a delay of the dates scheduled by the court."

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Netanyahu, who denies any wrongdoing, is charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases before the court. Shaul Elovitch and his wife, Iris, who are co-defendants in one of the three cases, filed a similar request with the court on Tuesday for a change in scheduling.

That case, dubbed Case 4000, involves allegations that Netanyahu provided government regulatory concessions to the Bezeq telecommunications company in exchange for favorable news coverage on Bezeq's Walla news website.  Shaul Elovitch was Bezeq's controlling shareholder at the time.

The hearing on the request to give defense counsel additional investigative materials will be held without requiring the presence of Netanyahu or the other defendants and will also deal with the lifting of confidentiality restrictions on some of the material.

According to the original trial schedule set by District Court Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman in the case, the defense lawyers were to have submitted their responses to the indictments of their clients by October 18 along with any preliminary arguments as to why the indictments should be quashed. Such arguments could include claims that in the interest of justice or due to selective enforcement of the law, the charges should be dropped. The prosecution was scheduled to respond to those arguments by November 1.

The evidentiary stage of the case, when the trial begins in earnest, with the presentation of witness testimony and other evidence, was scheduled to start in January, but with the postponement of the deadline for the defendants' responses to the indictment by a month and a half, it might be assumed that the start of the core portion of the trial will also be deferred.

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