Court rejects Netanyahu request to delay corruption trial

Judge agrees with attorney-general that remaining disputes can be resolved in the initial hearing, set for March 17.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

On Tuesday, the Jerusalem District Court rejected the request by the prime minister’s lawyers two days earlier for a 45-day postponement of his corruption trial.

Lead Judge Rivkah Friedman-Feldman spoke for her two fellow judges in the upcoming trial, Moshe Bar-Am and Oded Shaham, in ruling that “None of the reasons given [in the request] are grounds for justifying the postponement of the hearing.”

Netanyahu’s lawyers asked for the delay so that they could receive additional material from the prosecution, which they had requested months ago.

Friedman-Feldman’s position agreed with that of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, who on Monday officially opposed the request, arguing that the purpose of an initial hearing was in part specifically to resolve such documentation disputes.

The first hearing will also read out the charges against the defendant and determine the trial schedule.

As the judge noted, this is not yet the stage when Netanyahu must offer his plea (“guilty” or “not guilty”). At that point, his lawyers will have to have thoroughly evaluated all the material against their client, in order to be able to advise him and properly formulate their line of defense.

Mandelblit also maintained that Netanyahu’s lawyers had a part in the delay. He wrote that his office proffered access to some of the requested evidence late last month to one of the defense attorneys, Amit Hadad, who responded that he preferred to wait until the State Attorney’s office had scanned the documents for him.

Friedman-Feldman had previous experience dealing with the trial of a head of state, albeit one who had already resigned from his position. She was part of the three-judge panel that oversaw the re-trial of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on bribery charges.

In 2015, she and her colleagues sentenced him to eight months in jail for fraud and breach of trust in illicitly receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from businessman Morris Talansky, which he did not report when he was mayor of Jerusalem and a cabinet minister.