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Israeli court rejects Netanyahu request to delay trial

By PTI Updated: Mar 10, 2020 10:30 pm

Jerusalem, March 10 (AP/PTI): A Jerusalem district court on Tuesday rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to delay the start of his corruption trial, ruling it would begin as planned next week.

Netanyahu’s lawyers had appealed for a delay, saying they needed more time to review evidence. State prosecutors responded that they oppose any delays and the court accepted their position.

In overruling the request the presiding judge wrote that the first session on March 17 was reading only and the defendant’s response was not needed, therefore there was no justification for a delay.

Netanyahu has been charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in connection to a series of scandals that include accepting expensive gifts from wealthy friends and offering to exchange favours with powerful media moguls. The long-ruling Israeli leader denies any wrongdoing and says he is the victim of a media-orchestrated witchhunt.

His legal troubles stood at the centre of last week’s third inconclusive Israeli election in less than a year. Netanyahu’s opponent, Benny Gantz, refused to sit with him in government and appears poised to push for legislation in the incoming parliament that would bar anyone indicted of a crime being able to lead a government. The anti-Netanyahu forces in the new incoming parliament command a 62-58 majority but are deeply divided among themselves.

Israel’s longest-serving leader is desperate to remain in office because installing a new government would give him an important political boost and potentially allow him to legislate his way out of the legal quagmire. Amit Haddad, one of Netanyahu’s lawyers, had said he would seek a delay in the start of the trial. He said the request was technical and meant to give the defense time to review investigative materials that it still has not received.

By PTI Updated: Mar 10, 2020 10:30:10 pm