Published: Fri, October 04, 2019

Wednesday 02nd Oct 2019 Netanyahu corruption pre-trials begin

Wednesday 02nd Oct 2019 Netanyahu corruption pre-trials begin

The pre-trial hearings, which will take place over four consecutive days, will see Netanyahu's lawyers argue before the country's Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit that he should not press charges for alleged bribery, fraud and breach of trust - or to reduce them.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

The leader of the right-wing Likud party is facing a series of pre-trial hearings on potential charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery in three cases that involve gifts he allegedly had received and favours promised in exchange for positive media coverage.

Speaking to journalists outside the justice ministry ahead of the closed-door hearing, Netanyahu attorney Ram Caspi said that based on the materials and arguments they would present, there was "a solid foundation for a change of course".

Netanyahu did not appear at Wednesday's hearing, sending instead a high-powered 10-member legal team.

The hearing is the last step before formal charges are pressed and has been delayed many times already. "We are sure that once we present our findings there will be no choice but to close the case", Netanyahu attorney Amit Haddad said, upon entering the hearing.

The hearings begin on the same day that Netanyahu may be forced to inform President Reuven Rivlin that he is not able of form a government with his challenger Benny Gantz's centrist party.

Lieberman's nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, which won eight seats, could end up playing a kingmaker role in efforts to form a government. But they remain far apart on who should lead it and what smaller parties would join them.

Mr Netanyahu had been tasked by President Reuven Rivlin with forming a coalition, and should the incumbent premier say he can not do so, the president must then decide whether to ask Mr Gantz to try.

With no apparent route out of the crisis, there is the possibility of a third national election.

Activists chanted slogans in support of the prime minister and claimed the cases against him were a plot by justice officials and the media - a line that has been pushed by the prime minister himself. Under Israeli law, he could serve as long as legal proceedings and appeals are ongoing. This case was first brought to light by Haaretz in 2015, when Netanyahu was Minister of Communications as well as Prime Minister.

"We will not be the background for Netanyahu's election games", Blue and White said.

In the so-called Case 1000, Mr Netanyahu is accused of having received gifts from billionaires in exchange for his assistance in business and personal areas.

He failed to win a clear majority in last month's parliamentary elections and is now under a six-week deadline to cobble together a governing coalition through tough negotiations with political rivals.

In February, Attorney-General Mandelblit announced that he meant to file criminal charges against Netanyahu in investigations listed as cases 4000, 1000, and 2000.

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