A Likud MK is seeking to force state prosecutors to refile the indictment against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a possible bid to allow the prime minister to reapply for parliamentary immunity.
MK Shlomo Karai, in an appeal to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, has claimed there were various technical faults in the indictment prosecutors filed to the Jerusalem District Court and that it must be resubmitted, Channel 12 reported.
If his appeal is accepted, the process would need to be restarted and Netanyahu could once again ask for immunity, the network reported, which would push any Knesset deliberation on the matter to after the March 2 election.
Karai claimed the indictment included “an extraordinary number of errors… it appears the indictment was filed to the court as a ‘draft indictment.'”
According to Channel 12 Karai was particularly focusing on “confidentiality certificates” which prosecutors have sought in order to keep certain investigatory materials under wraps, saying filing the indictment without them was improper process.
Confidentiality certificates are used by prosecutors to protect sensitive sources of information. A court can overrule such certificates if it believes the evidence under question could significantly assist the defendant.
In an appeal to the Jerusalem court last Tuesday, the same day charges were filed, the lead prosecutor in the case, deputy state attorney Liat Ben-Ari, asked for a 45-day stay on providing certain materials to the defense as prosecutors work to secure the certificates.
“The case includes intelligence material in the process of acquiring confidentiality certificates and this will not be provided to the defense,” she said.
But the validity of filing charges without the certificates already in place has been called into question. High-profile attorney Uri Korb, who was the lead prosecutor against former prime minister Ehud Olmert in his criminal cases, and said last year he was asked to represent Netanyahu, told the Ynet news site last week that “the filing was done against the law and against the rulings of the Supreme Court, which have said that from the moment an indictment is filed all the materials must be available to the defense. The court has ruled on numerous occasions that you cannot file an indictment if you don’t have confidentiality certificates [in place].”
He added that “there have been rulings that said if there was no valid reason [for certificates not being in place] the indictment must be annulled.”
Netanyahu abandoned his appeal to receive immunity last week after it became clear he did not have a Knesset majority for it and that his request would be rejected. This led prosecutors to immediately file charges against the premier in the Jerusalem District Court.
Netanyahu had sought to delay deliberations on immunity until after the election, when he hoped to have secured a majority for his bid. But his rivals had moved to immediately debate and shoot down his request. His announcement he was pulling his request came hours before the Knesset was set to form a committee to debate — and almost certainly reject — the request.
The indictment against Netanyahu marks the first time in Israel’s history that a serving prime minister faces criminal charges, casting a heavy shadow over Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, his legacy and his ongoing attempts to remain in power.
According to the text of the indictment, released by the Justice Ministry in November, Netanyahu is charged with fraud and breach of trust in Cases 1000 and 2000, and bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000.
By withdrawing his request, the prime minister avoided the spectacle of defeat in the Knesset immunity process. Rather than battling for his immunity in the run-up to the elections, however, he is now set to face the electorate as a defendant in three criminal cases.
Netanyahu had reportedly originally agonized over asking for immunity, which undercut his earlier defense that he would ultimately be found innocent of the charges against him.
The prime minister has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in all three cases, and has alleged that the investigations against him are a “witch hunt” involving the left, the media and the police relentlessly pressuring a “weak” attorney general.