Israeli Minister Tried to Push for Move to Postpone Netanyahu's Criminal Trial

Gilad Erdan wanted to initiate a process to unseal evidence in Netanyahu's cases, which could have significantly delayed the proceedings

Josh Breiner
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan at a Knesset session in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan at a Knesset session in Jerusalem. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Josh Breiner

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan had contacted an official in his office and asked him to re-examine a procedure to seal evidence from the public in criminal cases – a move that could have postponed the criminal trial against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  

Following Erdan's move, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit instructed him not to handle the subject because he is a witness on behalf of the prosecution in case 4000, in which Netanyahu has been charged with bribery. The report on Erdan's move was published by Israel's Channel 12 News on Wednesday. 

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 63

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As part of his position, Erdan is supposed to sign a document to seal evidence in criminal cases in order to protect the police's intelligence sources. According to the law, requests to seal evidence are transferred to the individual in charge of this process at the Public Security Ministry, who then examines the evidence material with the prosecution. At the end of the process, the minister signs a certificate that prevents the defense from perusing the evidence over the claim that it could damage public interest. 

Every year, the individual in charge of this process at the Public Security Ministry, Attorney Ehud Halevi, passes on thousands of such requests to seal evidence to Erdan for the latter to sign. The requests are then transferred to the court and to the defense team. But according to Channel 12's report, when the State Prosecutor's Office had requested to seal the evidence in Netanyahu's cases, Erdan asked the legal adviser of his bureau to look into the option of having a discussion on the matter instead. This could have led to a significant delay in Netanyahu's proceedings, because his attorneys could have then requested to examine the materials if they were to remain unsealed. The State Prosecutor's Office contacted Mendelblit, who then decided to instruct Erdan to remain uninvolved. 

Erdan denied on Wednesday that he tried to postpone the legal proceedings, writing on Twitter: "The headline on Channel 12 News as though Erdan tried to postpone the proceedings against the prime minister is false! According to the law, the public security minister is the person with the authority to approve sealing evidence. In light of the many requests on the matter, the minister asked the legal adviser to hold a discussion in which he will be presented with the considerations that are being made when evidence are sealed that by law should be revealed to a defendant before his trial begins." 

Erdan also wrote that he "never spoke with the person in charge of sealing [the evidence], but asked the legal adviser to have a discussion, which was prevented in light of the instruction by the attorney general.

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