The panel of Jerusalem District Court judges hearing the corruption trial against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled on Wednesday that the court will recess for three weeks. That will permit prosecutors to collect additional material that they will then provide to the defense. The break in the proceedings was consented to by the two sides after the court had earlier rejected a request to take a break in the trial.
The court is currently hearing evidence of alleged improprieties involving Netanyahu and other defendants relating to Bezeq telecommunications and the Walla news website. The court heard an additional day of testimony on Wednesday in the cross-examination of Walla’s former CEO, Ilan Yeshua. As a result of the agreement by the two sides to recess the trial, Yeshua’s cross-examination will now resume on July 5.
The Bezeq-Walla case, dubbed Case 4000 by police investigators, is one of three cases against Netanyahu. It involves allegations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust against him for allegedly providing government regulatory concessions to Bezeq – Walla’s parent company at the time – in exchange for favorable news coverage of the prime minister on the website. The controlling shareholder of Bezeq at the time, Shaul Elovitch, and Elovitch’s wife, Iris, are also defendants in the case. They all deny any wrongdoing.
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At the beginning of Wednesday’s session, prosecutor Judith Tirosh announced that the defense and prosecution had agreed that prosecutors would search Yeshua’s cellphone and electronic mailbox for additional messages relating to the alleged slanting of coverage on the website. Tirosh initially said that a two-week break was required for this. For his part, Shaul Elovitch’s lawyer, Jacques Chen, asked that the trial be recessed until the end of the court’s summer break on September 5.
Initially the judges insisted that the trial would continue as planned, saying that other Walla employees could testify next week. Chen and Michal Rosen-Ozer, who represents Iris Elovitch, objected and initially threatened to refrain from cross-examining the other witnesses. Following a break, the two sides announced that they had agreed that prosecutors would spend the next two weeks searching for additional relevant material, which the defense lawyers would review the week after. The judges then acceded to this request for the three-week recess.
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In his cross-examination of Yeshua on Wednesday, Boaz Ben Zur, who represents Netanyahu, claimed that news items reported on the Walla website that the prosecution alleged were reported as a result of improper pressure by the then-prime minister were also reported by other media outlets.
Under cross-examination regarding coverage of a statement by Netanyahu regarding a killing at a Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, Yeshua admitted that it would have been unreasonable for the prime minister’s statement not to have been reported. Yeshua also confirmed as “obvious” that Walla would report a statement by a Netanyahu family lawyer in response to court testimony in another case by a former employee of the Prime Minister’s Residence.