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Netanyahu attorneys ask to alter indictment, possibly delaying trial

Defense argues that charges attribute to PM acts allegedly committed by his wife Sara and son Yair, placing December hearing for presenting evidence in jeopardy

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) talks with attorneys Micha Fettman (L) and Amit Hadad (R) inside the court room as his corruption trial opens at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2020 (Ronen Zvulun/ Pool Photo via AP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) talks with attorneys Micha Fettman (L) and Amit Hadad (R) inside the court room as his corruption trial opens at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2020 (Ronen Zvulun/ Pool Photo via AP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attorneys submitted a request on Wednesday for prosecutors to alter the indictment against him, in a move that could further delay the resumption of the premier’s criminal trial.

In their letter submitted to the Jerusalem District Court, lawyers Boaz Ben Tzur and Amit Hadad argued that the charge sheet is riddled with errors, which resulted from “flawed and biased investigative procedure.”

They added that the indictment sought to attribute to the prime minister alleged misconduct committed by his wife Sara and son Yair.

The indictment created “an artificial melding between [Netanyahu’s] actions and his wife’s actions regarding the receiving of gifts, without distinguishing between them,” the lawyers write in reference to Case 1000, in which the premier is accused of fraud and breach of trust for soliciting and receiving gifts from Hollywood-based Israeli movie mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian magnate James Packer.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara (C) and their son Yair seen with actress Kate Hudson at an event held at the home of producer Arnon Milchan (right), March 6, 2014. (Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

Yair Netanyahu has spent time at Packer’s apartment in the Royal Beach Hotel in Tel Aviv, including after a night out partying at a strip club, during which he was recorded by his driver making disparaging comments about women. Milchan reportedly covered the cost of California acting classes for the premier’s son.

According to the indictment against the premier, Packer and Milchan provided Sara with thousands of dollars worth of champagne “in a continuous manner, some of which came as a result of requests and demands, inter alia, through deliveries, even when Mr. Milchan and Mr. Packer were outside of Israel, such that they became a sort of ‘supply channel.’”

The defense claims in its Wednesday letter that “the list of flaws and improper matters [in the indictment] is not accidental” and that “at the appropriate timing” they will file a request to have the charge sheet tossed.

In a statement responding to the letter, the State Prosecutor’s Office said the request to alter the indictment cannot be made until the preliminary evidence phase, and that when a date is set for that hearing, it will respond to the allegations in turn.

Netanyahu’s criminal trial is slated to reconvene on December 6 for the presentation of evidence, but because that session relies on the indictment, altering the charge sheet would likely lead to a delay of that hearing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, his wife, Sara (c), and their son Yair during a meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (not pictured), at Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem on December 8, 2013. (Haim Zach/GPO/Flash90)

The prosecution has requested that the hearings in the evidence phase start with Case 4000 — considered the most serious of the three — in which the premier is accused of approving regulatory moves benefiting Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Bezeq telecom.

According to the indictment, Netanyahu received positive news coverage from the Elovitch-owned Walla news site as a bribe for the moves.

The prime minister also stands accused of fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000.

In case 2000, he is accused of attempting to reach a quid pro quo with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes for positive media coverage.

Netanyahu has said he is the victim of a wide-ranging conspiracy seeking his ouster — involving the left-wing opposition, media, police and state prosecutors — and called the allegations baseless.

The Jerusalem District Court has set a fast pace for the trial once it resumes, with the court supposed to convene three times a week, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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