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Monday, June 21, 2021

Evidence Phase of Netanyahu Trial Begins

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to report on Monday to Jerusalem’s District Court for the opening of the evidence stage in the corruption trial against him.

A panel of three judges, led by Justice Rivka Friedman-Feldman, will hear defence attorneys respond for the first time to the indictment filed against the 71-year-old.

Netanyahu is the first sitting premier in Israel’s history to stand trial.

Monday is the second time that Netanyahu is to appear in court, he did so first in May, when the indictment was read out to him.

The indictment accuses him of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases.

He was alleged to have systematically accepted expensive gifts and to have tried to improve media coverage of him in return for favours.

Monday’s session was initially scheduled for January, but was postponed due to a coronavirus lockdown which was eased on Sunday.

On Sunday, Netanyahu told his supporters he knew they wanted to support him, but said, “I urge you, for the sake of your health, for the sake of the health of all of us, don’t come.’’

The hearing came in the midst of campaigning, weeks before a parliamentary election.

In spite of the trial, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party continues to lead in opinion polls, though surveys says he would struggle to form a majority coalition.

Since May, his lawyers have studied the investigation’s material, filed pretrial motions and formulated their defence strategies.

Netanyahu denies all allegations.

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, of the Likud, urged the judges to only begin questioning witnesses after the March 23 vote.

He said this was to avoid “gross interference by the judiciary’’ in the election process. (dpa/NAN)

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