Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's lawyers refused on Sunday to accept evidence material sent to them by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, whose office called the rejection "odd."
The materials on the three cases Netanyahu is a suspect in have been available to his attorneys for a month, who so far refrained from collecting them because they have yet to be paid.
"There is a great discrepency between claims of the sheer breadth of the materials or the amount of time necessary to study them, and the fact it comes from those who for a long time chose not to receive them," Mendelblit said in his letter, adding that he would now "weigh his options."
In his letter, Mendelblit said that in light of his attempt to transfer the evidence, Netanyahu's lawyer should schedule a date for the hearing by May 20.
Netanyahu's attorney, however, said in response that he never received the material. The courier arrived with no prior coordination and did not leave the hard disk with the core of the investigation material, wrote Navot Tel-Zur to Mendelblit. Tel-Zur said he was not in the office when the courier arrived, and the courier chose not to leave the documents behind.
May 10 was the final date set by Mendelblit last month for scheduling the hearing. However, the premier's legal team failed to do so. The last date for holding the hearing itself, Mendelblit said, is July 10.
- Netanyahu's Lawyers Ask to Postpone Pre-indictment Hearing Until Fees Settled
- Mendelblit’s Vital Warning
- Netanyahu Backtracks, Will Not Ask Cousin to Fund Legal Defense
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.
On Saturday, it was reported that Mendelblit is expected to announce he will consider Netanyahu's lawyers request to postpone the 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.
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.
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.