Netanyahu Asks to Skip First Session of His Corruption Trial, Slated for Sunday

Attending 'would cost the public a fortune,' argues the prime minister, as courts in Israel resume operation after coronavirus freeze

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a coronavirus briefing in Jerusalem, March 12, 2020.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a coronavirus briefing in Jerusalem, March 12, 2020. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu filed on Monday a request to not to appear before the Jerusalem District Court for the first session of his trial on Sunday, where the charges against him will be formally presented. The prosecution would exmaine the request before filing it with the court.

Bibi swears in his colossal coalition and readies for a courtroom showdown

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Netanyahu, charged with bribery and fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases, claimed in his request Monday that having to show up at court for the first hearing – which he claims is merely a technicality – would “cost the public a fortune.”

>> Netanyahu's trial: Everything you need to know

The prosecution opposed Netanyahu's request in an announcement Tuesday afternoon. It said that a suspect's presence at their own hearing bears "an importance both "in terms of showing justice and public trust in fairness, and the equity of the criminal procedure in relation to the suspects themselves." 

The prosecution's statement also noted that the first session of a hearing is not a "technicality," but bears great significance for the rest of the trial.  

The trial was initially scheduled to open on March 17, but was delayed after former Justice Minister Amir Ohana froze the courts as part of the coronavirus emergency regulations.

Later that month, Minister Yariv Levin, also from Netanyahu’s Likud party, amended emergency orders so that only defendants in custody must show up to criminal proceedings via video conference.

After forming a government with Netanyahu, Benny Gantz's party will walk back on its main election promise and shelf three pieces of legislation meant to block Netanyahu from serving as prime minister. The first bill would have prevented a criminally indicted lawmaker from forming a government, the second would have barred a criminally indicted prime minister from serving on, and the third would cap any prime minister’s tenure at two terms.

In January, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit indicted Netanyahu with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three cases.

The so-called Case 1000 involves lavish gifts that the prime minister allegedly received. Case 2000 alleges legislation in exchange for favorable news coverage from the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. Case 4000 involves allegations of beneficial regulatory treatment for the Bezeq telecommunications firm in exchange for favorable news coverage from Bezeq’s Walla news website.

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