Jerusalem Court Denies Netanyahu's Request to Postpone Trial Hearing

Court dismisses amendments to indictment in the premier's corruption trial as reason for delay, says defense team had ample time to prepare

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his lawyers during the first day of his corruption trial at the district court of Jerusalem, May 24, 2020.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his lawyers during the first day of his corruption trial at the district court of Jerusalem, May 24, 2020.Credit: RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

A Jerusalem court denied on Tuesday a request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers to push back the next hearing in his corruption trial, set for next week.

The premier's lawyers had argued on Wednesday that they needed more time to study his amended indictment in his trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust and its implications, including with respect to the possibility of being granted immunity.

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“For the record, it should be noted that the legal significance of the amended indictment is being reviewed in relation to the immunity law for lawmakers, their rights and obligations, and Netanyahu reserves his rights on the matter,” Netanyahu's lawyers said.

In their decision, the Jerusalem District Court judges wrote that “the original indictment has been with the defendants for more than a year,” arguing the amendments don’t justify postponing the trial.

Last month, the court acceded to a request by the defense and asked the prosecution to amend the indictment to distinguish between Netanyahu's own requests that an internet news site tilt its coverage and those made by his family members.

The premier's lawyers cited the national coronavirus lockdown as a justification for their request, saying that the lockdown has made it more difficult for them to carry out their work and that some of them have been required to enter quarantine. They also pointed to the asymmetry of the prosecution having had 20 days to prepare the amended indictment, as compared to their having only received one week to review it before the slated hearing.

Mendelblit's documents not enough

The judges on Wednesday ruled in favor of Netanyahu's defense in determining that documents handed in to show Israel's Attorney General had authorized the investigation into alleged corruption were not receivable.

The documents, which were handed over by the attorney general's office on Tuesday, are not in the required format, the court said, and therefore do not qualify as proof that Mendelblit had approved the probe in advance.

Netanyahu’s lawyers had claimed that the approvals had been granted to state prosecutors retroactively, and the judges agreed that the approvals should be handed over to the defense.

Upon receipt of the documents, the prime minister’s lawyers again sought to dismiss Netanyahu’s indictment, telling the court: “The memorandum submitted denigrates the court’s ruling, which was clear: the accuser must provide the approvals in their respective existing formats, neither a memorandum nor a retrospective registration. The memorandum submitted does not comply with the court’s decision and amounts to self-judgment.”

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