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Witness testimony in Netanyahu corruption trial delayed until February

Judges set December 6 session to deal with claims by PM’s lawyers about alleged mistakes in indictment; plea hearing to be held on January 13

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with his lawyers in the courtroom, as his corruption trial opens at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2020. (Ronen Zvulun/ Pool Photo via AP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with his lawyers in the courtroom, as his corruption trial opens at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2020. (Ronen Zvulun/ Pool Photo via AP)

The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday delayed the start of the evidentiary stage in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial on corruption charges until February.

The court said witness testimony would be pushed off a month until February, and that precise dates will be determined later.

A hearing on December 6 will deal with claims raised by Netanyahu’s defense about what it says are incorrect facts in the charge sheet, according to the court.

The judges said Netanyahu will be required to attend a plea hearing on January 13.

Security guards stand outside the District Court in Jerusalem, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial on graft charges is being held, May 24, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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.

Prosecutor Liat Ben Ari is seen in the Jerusalem District Court, July 19, 2020. (Marc Israel/Pool Photo via AP)

Also 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 offering to push legislation 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.”

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