Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due on Monday to appear before Jerusalem’s District Court for the opening of the corruption trial against him.
Monday’s proceedings, which is the evidence stage in the trial, is the second time that Netanyahu will appear in court, having first done so last May, when the indictment was read out to him.
A panel of three judges, led by Justice Rivka Friedman-Feldman, will hear defense 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.
The indictment accuses him of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases.
The Prime Minister is 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 comes in the midst of campaigning, weeks before a parliamentary election.
Despite the trial, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party continues to lead in opinion polls, though surveys say he would struggle to form a majority coalition.
In the months since May, his lawyers have studied the investigation’s material, filed pretrial motions and formulated their defense strategies.
Netanyahu denies all allegations.
Meanwhile, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud Party) urged the judges to only begin questioning witnesses after the March 23 vote, to avoid “gross interference by the judiciary” in the election process.(dpa/NAN)