Israel's Attorney General Expected to Agree to Postpone Netanyahu's Pre-indictment Hearing

Avichai Mendelblit is slated to tell Netanyahu's lawyers that he is determined to hold the hearing, but will agree to postpone it from July to the end of September if they collect evidence materials

File photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, listens to Avichai Mendelblit during the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office, November 2014.
AP

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is expected to announce to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's attorneys that he will consider their request to postpone the premier's pre-indictment hearing only after they collect all evidence materials against him. 

After the evidence is gathered, Mendelblit is expected to agree to postpone the hearing until the holiday season in September.

Materials on the three cases Netanyahu is a suspect in have been available to his lawyers for a month, but so far they refrained from collecting them because they have yet to be paid their salaries. The attorney general intends to clarify to the attorneys that the payment issue does not pertain to the timing of the hearing, and that he is bent on holding it as soon as possible. 

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Mendelblit said last month that the lawyers' payment was not sufficient reason to postpone the hearing, which he said must be held by July 10. Netanyahu’s lawyers have refused to collect the evidence to prepare for the hearing until they are paid.  

May 10 was the final date set by Mendelblit for scheduling the hearing.

The Justice Ministry noted this weekend that Netanyahu is the one who asked for the postponement in the delivery of the contents of the investigation until after the election, over his concern that the contents will be leaked and serve as fodder for his political rivals. Mendelblit, the Justice Ministry added, accepted his request. 

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Last month the attorney general clarified to Netanyahu's lawyers that they have to coordinate a date for the hearing soon, and warned that if they don't, it will be interpreted as the premier forgoing his right for a hearing. In such a case, Mendelblit heeded, he would file an indictment against Netanyahu based solely on the draft indictment. 

Regarding the prime minister's failure to pay his attorneys, Mendelblit wrote: "This does nothing to justify a delay in transferring the core of the investigation materials to the prime ministers or people on his behalf, and it can't affect the timing of the hearing in any way."

Netanyahu's attorneys had requested that the hearing be postponed by several months, so that the permits committee at the State Comptroller’s Office can decide on Netanyahu's request to use external funding to pay his defense team. The attorneys wrote that Netanyahu is interested in fulfilling his right to a hearing, but that they were given insufficient time to prepare for it.

Mendelblit gave attorneys of the prime minister and other suspects three months since the date of general election. The defense attorneys all agree that this was insufficient, considering the scope of evidence in the cases. The lawyers of Shaul and Iris Elovitch, suspect in bribery case 4000, have also requested to postpone the hearing until the end of September. Netanyahu's attorneys argued that the request for postponement is reasonable, as Netanyahu– unlike Elovitch, Arnon Mozes and Zeev Rubinstein – is involved in three cases and not one.