Attorney Boaz Ben Tzur has joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defense team in his corruption trial, a spokesperson for the prime minister announced Monday.
Ben Tzur joins attorneys Amit Hadad and Yossi Segev who currently represent Netanyahu in the cases against him, although his legal team has seen a high turnover amid problems securing funds to pay legal fees.
A renowned defense lawyer, Ben Tzur, has previously represented billionaire movie mogul Arnon Milchan, a central figure in Case 1000, one of the trio of cases against the prime minister. There were conflicting reports in Hebrew media as to whether or not Ben Tzur still represents Milchan’s personal assistant Hadas Klein, who will be a key prosecution witness in Case 1000.
Before taking on the job, Ben Tzur asked the State Prosecution if there were any legal issues with him representing Netanyahu but no objections were raised, Channel 12 news reported.
Klein has said the approach constituted a conflict of interest and violated her rights, the report said.
Segev only joined the defense attorneys last month, days after Micha Fettman quit the team when Netanyahu’s request for permission to receive funds from a foreign benefactor to pay his legal fees in his corruption trial was refused. Fettman had only joined Netanyahu’s defense team weeks earlier.
The turnover in Netanyahu’s legal representatives has already drawn criticism at the Jerusalem District Court where the trial is being held.
Last month at the second hearing in the trial Segev asked for a delay in the proceedings until after the coronavirus outbreak has ended due to awkwardness of cross-examinations when all those involved are required to wear face masks.
Segev also told the court that he had received power of attorney only for day’s hearing, “because the attorney general did not allow funding.”
The judge responded: “I do not understand. Today you are here and tomorrow you may not be? Where is [Amit] Hadad, who was here at the previous hearing? It can’t be that there is somebody different every time, there should be permanent representation. I hope that you won’t be replaced before next time.”
Witnesses in the trial are to begin giving testimony in January, with hearings to be held three times a week.
The makeup of Netanyahu’s legal team has been hampered by the Permits Committee at the State Comptroller’s Office repeatedly rejecting the prime minister’s requests, most recently last month, for permission to accept donations from wealthy benefactors for his legal expenses, and instructing him to return funds he had already received.
Netanyahu’s trial on charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes opened in May in a Jerusalem court. The accusations include accepting some $200,000 in gifts such as cigars and champagne from two billionaires, Hollywood-based Israeli movie mogul Milchan and Australian magnate James Packer, known as Case 1000.
In Case 2000 and case 4000 Netanyahu is also accused of offering to push legislation benefiting powerful Israeli media moguls in exchange for more positive coverage in their publications.
Netanyahu has said he is the victim of a wide-ranging conspiracy, in which the left-wing opposition, media, police and state prosecutors are attempting a political coup to oust him, and called the allegations baseless, saying accepting gifts from friends isn’t a problem.