Netanyahu Seeks Postponement of Pre-indictment Hearing, Citing Election Round

Prime minister says proximity of Election Day makes October date impossible, but attorney general is not expected to comply with the request

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, June 2, 2019.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, June 2, 2019. Credit: RONEN ZVULUN,AP
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has once again sought to delay his pre-indictment hearing, arguing that the do-over election on September 17 makes the current date impossible.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is expected to reject his request, on the grounds that a pre-indictment hearing involves only the suspect’s lawyers, not the suspect himself, and therefore shouldn’t interfere with the campaign. At most, he is expected to agree to a very short postponement of a week or two.

The hearing has already been postponed once, from July 10 to October 2 and 3. That postponement was due in part to the fact that Netanyahu’s lawyers refused to collect the case files because they hadn’t been paid.

Last month, Netanyahu reached a payment agreement with one attorney, Amit Hadad, who subsequently picked up the files.

Hadad originally asked Mendelblit to postpone the hearing for a year, claiming the amount of material in the case files was “inconceivable” and he needed all that time to prepare properly. But Mendelblit said that would “undermine the vital public interest in making a decision in this case as soon as possible.” He agreed to postpone the hearing only for three months.

In February, Mendelblit announced that unless the pre-indictment hearing changes his mind, he plans to charge Netanyahu with taking bribes in the Bezeq-Walla case and with fraud and breach of trust in two other cases (receiving illicit gifts from businessmen and negotiating with a newspaper publisher to secure more favorable coverage).

He agreed not to give the material to the defense attorneys until April 10, one day after the April 9 election, as had been requested by Netanyahu, who feared that it might leak to his political rivals.

The pre-indictment hearings for the other suspects in these cases will be held on August 15. Liat Ben-Ari, the prosecutor handling them, had told the suspects that if they didn’t agree to that date, she would consider them to have waived their right to a hearing. No such threat was contained in Mendelblit’s response to Netanyahu.

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