Netanyahu asks AG to put off pre-trial hearing by a year, is refused – reports
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Netanyahu asks AG to put off pre-trial hearing by a year, is refused – reports

PM’s attorneys said to cite scope of case files, with Mandelblit inclined to push back July date only to September or October

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, in a composite photo. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, in a composite photo. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attorneys on Monday requested that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit hold the premier’s pre-trial hearing on three criminal cases in a year, instead of the original July 10 deadline, Haaretz and Channel 13 reported.

In his appeal to the attorney general, lawyer Amit Haddad argued that the defense team needs a substantial amount of time to study the extensive case files.

According to Channel 13, Mandelblit rejected the request, and is considering allowing a delay of up to a few months — to September or October.

The sides are currently in talks to negotiate an agreed-upon date. At any rate, the current deadline of July 10 is almost certain to be pushed back.

Mandelblit had announced his intention to indict Netanyahu in the three cases against him in February. The prime minister’s attorneys initially requested that the case files not be handed over prior to the April 9 election election in order to prevent information from leaking to the media and affecting the vote.

But after the election the lawyers refrained for another month from accepting the material, citing a dispute over their fees. They have been accused of engaging in delay tactics.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office on May 12, 2019. (Gali Tibbon/Pool/AFP)

Meanwhile, Netanyahu is believed to be seeking legislation that could shield him from prosecution, though he has encountered significant opposition to such moves, including from members of his own party.

Netanyahu repeatedly insisted in the run-up to the elections that he would not push for legislation granting him automatic immunity. However, several recent media reports have suggested he later decided to move forward with plans to pass such a law.

Sources close to the prime minister said Sunday that in light of the pushback, he had decided not to move forward with a new law and would work with the existing immunity law as amended in 2005.

The existing legislation provides legitimate reasons by which Netanyahu can seek immunity against prosecution while he remains in office, such as asserting that the public interest would be harmed by a trial, or that the will of the voter will be supplanted. Another clause in the law says immunity can be granted if an indictment “has been issued in bad faith or because of discrimination.”

Meanwhile, Netanyahu is reportedly working to promote a bill that would allow the government to overrule the High Court of Justice on administrative matters and that could safeguard the prime minister’s immunity from prosecution by permitting the annulment of any judicial decision to rescind it.

The prime minister is facing charges of fraud and breach of trust in three cases, and bribery in one of them. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and claims the corruption accusations are a political witch-hunt aimed at forcing him from office.

Raoul Woottliff contributed to this report.

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