Third Netanyahu trial hearing kicks off

Netanyahu and his co-defendants, Shaul and Iris Elovitch, are not present at the hearing.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

On Sunday morning, the third hearing in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial kicked off in the Jerusalem District Court.

Netanyahu and his co-defendants, Shaul and Iris Elovitch, are not present at the hearing. The hearing is a procedural, technical one with no witness testimony or presentation of evidence.

Overseeing the hearing are judges Rivkah Friedman-Feldman, Oded Shaham and Moshe Bar-Am.

A reporter present in the courtroom tweeted that the hearing got off to a rocky start due to technical malfunctions.

“DRAMATIC first moments of hearing – the judges cannot see the lawyers because of glare from the windows. 2 of the 3 judges stand up to try to get the window coverings down, but fail miserably,” tweeted journalist Yonah Jeremy Bob.

“The courtroom for the PM. Judge is reminding lawyers not to sit too close b/c corona.”

Local Israeli media reported that Netanyahu’s lawyers, Boaz Ben Tzur and Amit Hadad, are expected to raise complaints about the prosecution’s failure to turn over documents, which they say are critical for Netanyahu’s defense.

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The prosecution has claimed these documents constitute internal communication within their office, which Netanyahu’s defense attorneys have no right to review.

In September, Ben Tzur and Haddad said that the police began investigating Netanyahu in Case 2000 before they were given permission to do so by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

Case 2000 alleges that Netanyahu engaged in a media bribery scheme, promising to weaken circulation of the Israel Hayom newspaper and promote its rival paper, Yediot Ahronot, in exchange for positive coverage.

The police began investigating Netanyahu in March 2016, months before they received official authorization from Mandelblit in July 2016.

Mandelblit claims he gave the police verbal permission to begin probing Netanyahu, but defense attorneys cite a law specifically banning the police from investigating a prime minister until the attorney general gives official authorization.

If the judges accept this argument, significant portions of the charges against Netanyahu could be dropped by the court.