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High Court accepts Netanyahu defense team’s request for more trial materials

PM’s lawyers will receive new material related to investigation into premier, reportedly including testimony to police by journalist

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for the first session of the evidentiary stage of his trial at Jerusalem District Court on April 5, 2021. He left the hearing after the lead prosecutor's opening statement, before the start of witness testimony, at his own request and with the judges' permission. (Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for the first session of the evidentiary stage of his trial at Jerusalem District Court on April 5, 2021. He left the hearing after the lead prosecutor's opening statement, before the start of witness testimony, at his own request and with the judges' permission. (Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

The High Court of Justice partially accepted an appeal filed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defense team on Sunday that demanded they receive additional materials related to the investigations of the premier.

Some materials that had not been delivered to the defense team until now will be transferred to its members as a result of the successful appeal.

Among those materials is testimony given to police by journalist Ben Caspit, Ynet reported, without specifying which of the three cases against the premier the testimony related to.

Caspit has written a biography of Netanyahu, been sued by the premier over his reporting on his legal cases, and been targeted by Netanyahu online.

He also feuded with Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz in 2019, when Gantz’s was Netanyahu’s main political opponent.

The evidentiary phase of Netanyahu’s trial on graft charges began last week. It may continue for years and will likely include testimony from hundreds of witnesses.

Netanyahu’s defense team has repeatedly sought to delay the trial and discredit investigators and the prosecution.

Former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua at the Jerusalem District Court for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial, April 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The first week of witness testimony wrapped up Wednesday with the former CEO of the Walla news site, Ilan Yeshua, telling the court he was repeatedly instructed to skew the site in favor of Netanyahu as part of an alleged deal.

Yeshua is a key witness in Case 4000, where the prime minister is accused of establishing an illegal quid pro quo with the owners of Walla in which they gave him favorable coverage and he granted them immensely lucrative regulatory favors.

Yeshua recounted how he was repeatedly instructed by his bosses and people close to Netanyahu to skew the news site, Israel’s second-largest, toward positive coverage of the premier and criticism of his rivals — and said he believed those instructions were part of a tradeoff deal between Netanyahu and the site’s owners.

On Tuesday, Yeshua detailed how he was asked to be part of a coverup effort to hide the alleged quid pro quo deal. The testimony was heard despite efforts by Netanyahu’s lawyers to disqualify parts of it.

The alleged transaction goes to the heart of Case 4000, the most serious of the three cases against Netanyahu, in which he is charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. Netanyahu has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Netanyahu allegedly used his powers when he served as both premier and communications minister from 2014 to 2017 to illicitly benefit telecommunications magnate Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Bezeq, in exchange for positive coverage of the prime minister and his family by the Elovitch-owned Walla news site.

Businessman Shaul Elovitch, one of the defendants, attends a session of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial for corruption at Jerusalem District Court on April 5, 2021. (Abir SULTAN / POOL / AFP)

Elovitch and his wife Iris also face bribery charges in Case 4000. Other Bezeq officials were indicted in related, but separate, cases last year.

The trial is scheduled to continue from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for at least the next few weeks.

Netanyahu was required to appear in court Monday at the start of the evidence phase, but was granted permission to leave early.

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing in the cases against him and claims the indictments are part of an effort by political rivals, the media, police, and prosecutors to remove him from office.

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