Netanyahu corruption trial resumes

Netanyahu not in court as trial resumes after two-month break. Judges will begin hearing evidence starting in January 2021.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The corruption trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resumed Sunday with the judges ruling that the court adjourn and begin hearing testimony starting in January 2021.

After being delayed earlier this year by the coronavirus pandemic, the trial finally opened in May with the reading of the charges and was promptly adjourned for the defense and prosecution to prepare for the next stage, which is the presentation of evidence.

However, with mountains of evidence to be reviewed and Israel in the midst of a second wave of coronavirus infections that is much worse than the first, Netanyahu attorney Yossi Segev asked for the trial to be postponed due to the coronavirus crisis, adding it was “difficult to breathe with a mask on,” Kan Radio reported.

The lawyer explained to the court that “I can’t question witnesses like that when I’m wearing a mask,” but the judge replied, “Do you propose to stop the hearings?”

The head of the three-judge panel, Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman, ruled that the evidentiary hearings will take place three times a week, beginning in January 2021.

The prime minister along with another defendant in the case, Yediot Ahronot newspaper publisher Noni Moses, were exempt from appearing at the hearing, but a third defendant, Bezeq national telephone company controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch, decided to attend voluntarily, and his attorney Michal Rosen-Ozer asked the court to halt the trial due to “investigation’s tricks.”

Rosen-Ozer claimed the investigators tried to recruit Elovitch’s son in an attempt to convince him to become a state witness to testify against Netanyahu, saying that “the prosecution tried to hide investigative materials from us. It is impossible to set a date for the beginning of the evidence [hearings].”

Elovitch’s lawyer said the cased contained “super-dramatic events, hundreds of thousands of hours of recording, tens of pages of minutes … I have no choice but to go back to the recordings to check that they really do not understand what was said.”

However, prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari rejected the allegations.

“No one hid investigative materials from the defense attorneys, the recordings are in front of them,” Ben-Ari told the court.

Netanyahu is charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of public trust. He maintains his innocence on all the charges that he is alleged to have received gifts from billionaire friends and agreed to ease government regulations on media and communications in return for favorable coverage of himself and his family.

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing, painting the accusations as a media-orchestrated witch hunt pursued by a biased law enforcement system. The trial is expected to take up to three years before a verdict is given.

In May, when the trial opened, Netanyahu blasted it as a political attempt to eject a right-wing leader through judicial means, calling it “an attempt to thwart the will of the people, an attempt to overthrow me and the right-wing camp.”