Israel's Attorney General Rejects Netanyahu's Request to Broadcast Pre-indictment Hearing

Mendelblit's office slams the prime minister for disrespecting criminal proceedings, says 'hearing is not intended to persuade the public'

Avichai Mendelblit at a conference, September 3, 2019.
Ilan Assayag

Israel's Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit rejected on Thursday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's request to broadcast live his pre-indictment hearing, scheduled for next week.

Earlier this week, rather than sending the attorney general a document outlining the basis of his claim that he is not guilty, Netanyahu sent one page void of explanations to back his statement that he is innocent.

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"We regret that instead of complying with this directive (submitting the suspect's arguments in writing prior to the hearing), you have found it appropriate to submit a very short document with no actual content," Mendelblit's office wrote in a letter published Thursday.

Mendelblit's office criticized Netanyahu's document writing that it "does not respect the hearing we are facing, and diminishes the great importance the attorney general attaches to it."

The letter was published hours after Netanyahu requested that his pre-indictment hearing be broadcast. "After a torrent of slanted, partial leaks, it's time for the public to hear everything," Netanyahu said in a video he circulated. "Not only do I have nothing to hide," the prime minister continued, "I want everything to be heard. That is my request – a live broadcast of the hearing. This way, we will guarantee truth and justice."

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Mendelblit's office responded by writing: "The purpose of the hearing is to provide an opportunity for a suspect who wishes to present their claims to law enforcement agencies, and to persuade the certified body that there is no justification to indict them. The hearing is not intended to persuade the public."

Later Thursday, Netanyahu's office responded to Mendeblit's letter, calling the decision "disappointing."  

"The court said the hearing was not intended to persuade the public, but over the past four years the investigations against Prime Minister Netanyahu have been accompanied by hundreds of criminal leaks from investigations, hostilities and rods aimed at the public, in order to create media alliance against the prime minister," Netanyahu's office said. 

Mendelblit announced in February that he decided to indict the prime minister, pending a hearing, for fraud, bribery and breach of trust in the three criminal cases.

In Case 1000, the premier is suspected of taking gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan in return for political favors; in Case 2000, he is suspected of striking a deal with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes for favorable coverage in return for legislation to curb a rival newspaper; and in Case 4000, he is suspected of awarding privileges to telecommunications tycoon Shaul Elovitch in exchange for positive coverage on his Walla news site.