Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defense attorneys on Sunday asked the Jerusalem District Court to throw out the criminal indictment against the premier, claiming law enforcement “invented” the corruption charges.
In their 200-page request, the prime minister’s lawyers alleged that police investigators used illegitimate means to secure evidence, thus disqualifying the criminal charges, and asked the Jerusalem District Court to throw out the case.
“The investigation materials reveal serious actions [by law enforcement] that require the indictment to be canceled — they did not investigate a crime, they invented a crime,” his lawyers alleged.
Among the allegations, the lawyers said they brought “dozens of examples of improper investigative methods, [including] intimidating witnesses, using their personal lives to interrogate them, silencing witnesses, selective enforcement, ignoring evidence favoring [Netanyahu], and additional irregular actions.”
“This is an unprecedented event,” the lawyers charged, asking the court to overturn the charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust against Netanyahu in a trio of criminal cases.
Netanyahu’s office, in a statement, charged that “illegal actions, on an unprecedented level,” were taken during the investigation.
In a statement, 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 the prime minister attended the first hearing, he was granted an exemption from appearing at the largely procedural stages of the trial.
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 can therefore not properly prepare a defense.
The opening of the trial had been previously pushed back from March to May due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Last Tuesday, prosecutors told the court they oppose changing the indictment.
“The indictment is explicit, clear and detailed, and is based on evidence that will be brought in the trial itself,” prosecutors were quoted as saying by the Walla news site.
Netanyahu’s attorneys submitted a request earlier this month for prosecutors to alter the indictment against him. In their letter, submitted to the Jerusalem District Court, lawyers Boaz Ben Tzur and Amit Hadad argued that the charge sheet was riddled with errors, which resulted from a “flawed and biased investigative procedure.”
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.”