Netanyahu's Corruption Trial to Start Next Week After Court Denies Request for Delay

Court rejects the PM legal team's arguments ahead of Tuesday's opening hearing

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to a nomination ceremony at Israeli President Reuven Rivlin's residence in Jerusalem, September 25, 2019.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trial for three corruption cases will open next Tuesday, after the Jerusalem District Court denied on Tuesday his request to delay it by 45 days. Also Tuesday, the High Court of Justice issued a temporary injunction against a special government permits committee that was supposed to Netanyahu's request to accept donations to finance his legal defense on March 15.

The prime minister, who has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, was scheduled to appear in court next week, but the prosecutor's office told the court it wouldn't require Netanyahu to show up at court for the opening hearing.

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The district court said that the arguments presented by Netanyahu's legal team are irrelevant for the first hearing, and therefore there is no reason to delay the trial.

Netanyahu's lawyers cited backlogs in transferring investigation materials, which hadn't allowed them to prepare for the hearing, in their request. However, the court stressed that they are not required to respond to the charges in next week's hearing.

Netanyahu has asked to be allowed to accept a monetary gift from  Michigan businessman Spencer Partrich to fund his legal defense, which a committee was set to discuss on next Sunday before the High Court's injunction was issued Tuesday.

The prosecution has prepared the materials in full for Netanyahu's defense team, but the prime minister's attorneys have not come forward to collect them, and are requesting that the prosecution scan the files for them. 

Netanyahu's main rival for the premiership in Israel's election, Kahol Lavan's Benny Gantz, blasted the prime minister last week on Twitter, accusing him of attempting to evade justice. 

"It has begun," Gantz said. "Rejection – evasion – override," the lawmaker said, referring to a clause promoted by Netanyahu's political camp, which would see the authority of Israel's judicial branch superseded by the legislature.

Gantz's party is attempting to gain legislative support for a bill that would bar an indicted politician from leading a government. If passed, the bill would only take effect in case Israel goes to a fourth election.