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Court orders prosecution to give Netanyahu lawyers more files in graft cases

Judges say documents sought by the PM’s attorneys include ‘information of potential value and relevance for the defense,’ but reject some of the requests for materials

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wearing a face mask in line with public health restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, stands inside the courtroom as his corruption trial opens at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2020. (Ronen Zvulun/ Pool Photo via AP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wearing a face mask in line with public health restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, stands inside the courtroom as his corruption trial opens at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2020. (Ronen Zvulun/ Pool Photo via AP)

The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday ordered the state to hand over some investigatory material to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defense team within seven days, as part of the criminal cases against him.

In doing so, the court partially accepted a claim by Netanyahu’s defense team, and the defense teams of the other defendants in the case, that the prosecution had “filtered out” some materials handed over in discovery.

The court also turned down some requests for more materials found to be irrelevant to the defense’s case.

Among the documents the judges ordered prosecutors to give to the defense were files from two of the investigations in which Netanyahu faces charges, known as Case 2000 and Case 4000, as well as from an internal police probe of an investigator who had a conflict of interest allegedly covered up by law enforcement.

“[The documents] include raw information of potential value and relevance for the defense,” the judges wrote in the ruling.

Security guards stand outside the District Court in Jerusalem, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to stand trial, May 24, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The ruling came two days after Netanyahu’s attorneys asked the court to throw out the criminal charges against the premier, claiming law enforcement “invented” the corruption charges.

The state prosecution said it was familiar with the claims presented by Netanyahu’s defense team, adding that many of the accusations had been raised in the past. It said it would respond to the allegations in court.

The next hearing in Netanyahu’s trial that will deal with these claims is scheduled for December 6.

Last week, the Jerusalem District Court delayed the start of the evidentiary stage in Netanyahu’s trial until February. The court said witness testimony would be pushed off by a month, and that precise dates would be determined later.

The judges said Netanyahu will be required to attend a plea hearing on January 13.

The premier’s trial on charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes opened in May. Though Netanyahu attended the first hearing, he was granted an exemption from appearing at the largely procedural stages of the trial.

Prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari (2nd-L) and Shaul Elovtich (2nd-R) at the Jerusalem District Court for a hearing in the criminal cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, July 19, 2020. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

His lawyers have repeatedly moved to delay and discredit the proceedings, filing complaints against the prosecution, alleging “criminal tactics” against them, calling for changing the indictment against the prime minister, and arguing they have not received the full case files from the police and therefore cannot properly prepare a defense.

The opening of the trial had been previously pushed back from March to May due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The charges against the prime minister include accepting some $200,000 in gifts such as cigars and champagne from two billionaires, Hollywood-based Israeli movie mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian magnate James Packer. Netanyahu is also accused of advancing policy benefiting powerful Israeli media moguls in exchange for more positive coverage in their publications.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and has railed against the courts, prosecution, and media for what he terms a “witch hunt.”

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