Netanyahu trial postponed as justice minister declares state of emergency

The order delays most legal proceedings in Israel, Channel 11 reports. 

By David Isaac, World Israel News

The trial of Benjamin Netanyahu has been postponed until May 24, the justices involved in the case announced on Sunday. It had originally been scheduled for March 17. The postponement is due to the ongoing corona crisis.

The decision followed an order issued by Justice Minister Amir Ohana declaring a “special emergency situation” on Saturday night. The order is in force for 24 hours but is expected to be extended each day for the foreseeable future.

The order delays most legal proceedings in Israel, Channel 11 reports. It affects all of the judiciary, except for the Supreme Court, enforcement and collection authorities, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office.

The Justice Minister’s order followed a press conference called by the prime minister on Saturday evening in which stricter guidelines were issued to combat the coronavirus. They included the closing of all places of entertainment, cafes and restaurants. Public transportation was also put on a limited schedule.

An NGO, The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, said it would file a petition to the Supreme Court demanding that the Justice Minister’s “state of emergency” order be cancelled.

The group said that Ohana “is a temporary minister in a transitional government, who hasn’t received the public’s backing and whose appointment was never approved by the Knesset.”

It said Ohana’s move was meant “to rescue Netanyahu from facing a trial… and constitutes a new step in trampling over law enforcement authorities in Israel.”

The group has twice appealed to the Supreme Court to rule on whether a prime minister facing indictment can serve in the role. According to Israeli law, a prime minister is allowed to continue in office.

The Supreme Court in each case deferred considering the petition, saying it was too early to debate the issue.