Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial resumed on Sunday, with his lawyers asking the Jerusalem District Court to drop the charges against him for alleged irregularity by police investigators investigating the prime minister, and judges indicating they intend to order prosecutors to explain why some parts of his indictment were insufficient. detail.
Such a decision will likely require prosecutors to correct the charges, resulting in another significant delay in the trial schedule. The beginning of the proving stage has been pushed for a month.
Netanyahu’s trial on charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes opened in May. Although the prime minister attended the first hearing, he was granted exemptions from attending at a later date for most of the procedural stages of the trial, including the Sunday hearing.
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The trial began with a procedure relating to Case 4000 – the most serious of the three cases against Netanyahu and the only one to bring charges of bribery – in which the prime minister is accused of agreeing to regulatory measures in favor of Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of the Bezeq telecommunications group. , in return for positive news coverage of Elovitch’s Walla news site.
It also addresses Case 1000, in which Netanyahu is accused of receiving about $ 200,000 in gifts such as cigars and champagne from two billionaires – Hollywood-based Israeli film mogul Arnon Milchan and leading Australian James Packer.
Due to the limits of the coronavirus, only three lawyers per defendant were allowed in the courtroom on Sunday. Journalists were barred from entering the room but were given access to media screenings in the adjacent courtroom.
An expanded courtroom is reportedly under construction to accommodate more people for the next stage of the trial. The trial marks the first time a prime minister has been indicted in office, and large hearings are expected when the evidentiary phase begins in February.
Netanyahu denies wrongdoing and lambasted the courts, prosecution and media for what he described as a “witch hunt.”
His lawyers have repeatedly postponed and discredited trials, filed complaints against the prosecution, accused “criminal tactics” had been used against them, called for amendments to the charges against the prime minister, and, on Sunday, claimed that police investigators had used unlawful means to secure evidence. , thereby disqualifying the charges.
“Investigators are committing a very inappropriate and serious investigative malpractice,” said Boaz Ben Tzur, Netanyahu’s lawyer on Sunday, claiming that “witnesses were pressured to provide the version of events that investigators wanted: by threatening to limit contact with their families and children. , by denying rights, abuse, screaming. ”
According to Ben Tzur, investigators repeatedly silenced witnesses who disagreed with them and in some cases refused to accept and collect “solid evidence” that contradicted the charges.
“This inappropriate method must not be recognized in a law-abiding democratic country that sanctifies human rights,” he said.
More specifically, he argues that the indictment sheet does not include a detailed list of Netanyahu’s requests for changes in Walla’s coverage and the gifts the prime minister and his wife Sara of Milchan and Packer received.
“We are under the fog of war,” said Ben Tzur. “We need to understand what elements are keeping us from the realm of legitimate discourse [in the talks with Walla]. There is difficulty because we do not know what the point of the dispute is. “
Judge Oded Shacham seemed to accept that argument.
“The defendants are allowed to know what coverage claims are heeded and are allowed to get an overview,” he said on the sidelines of the trial. “The lack of distraction requires explanation.”
Fellow jury Moshe Bar-Am agreed, saying the details were “highly relevant”.
Judith Tirosh of the Public Prosecutor’s Office argues that “in most cases, we don’t go into detail on everything. His story is clearly stated in the indictment, and should not serve as a map of investigative material. The aim is to tell the story to the accused so they know what they are getting into. “
Prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari said investigators know what was purchased for Netanyahu in Case 1000 and at what price, but not what was actually given to him or when.
Netanyahu’s lawyers also claim that charges have been filed while the prime minister has immunity from prosecution, although that was filed after Netanyahu said he withdrew a Knesset request to grant him immunity.
Answering a question from Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman why the claim is only being made now, almost a year since the charges were filed, Netanyahu’s lawyer Amit Hadad said: “What should he do during this year, rain dance? The only place to make that argument is here. “
In response to Friedman-Feldman’s question why Netanyahu announced he was giving up the offer of immunity, Hadad said: “He didn’t announce. The announcement was not an announcement. There is no import from a legal point of view. “
Last month, the court postponed the start of the evidence stage from January to February. The court said that the witness testimony would be postponed for a month and an exact date would be determined later.