International

Israeli PM Netanyahu corruption trial to open today

Jerusalem, May 23 (AP) | Publish Date: 5/23/2020 9:13:00 AM IST

After entering the record books last year as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu will once again make history when he becomes the country’s first sitting leader to go on trial.

Surrounded by security guards, Netanyahu is set to march into Jerusalem’s district court for arraignment on a series of corruption charges on Sunday.
The stunning scene will push Israel into uncharted political and legal territory, launching a process that could ultimately end the career of a leader who has been undefeatable at the ballot box for over a decade.
Netanyahu has been charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of cases. He is accused of accepting expensive gifts, such as cartons of champagne and cigars, from wealthy friends and offering favours to media moguls in exchange for favourable news coverage of him and his family.
In the most serious case, he is accused of promoting legislation that delivered hundreds of millions of dollars of profits to the owner of a major telecom company while wielding behind-the-scenes editorial influence over the firm’s popular news website.
Netanyahu has denied the charges, claiming he is the victim of an “attempted coup” by overaggressive police, biased prosecutors and a hostile media.
In the courtroom, the legal arguments are more likely to focus on his claims that his gifts were genuine shows of affection from close friends and that he never received anything in return for the favours he is accused of offering.
The case is expected to last for several years, given the vast number of witnesses and documents that are expected to be presented.
Netanyahu has done his best to avoid this moment. During a three-year investigation, which was slowed by Netanyahu’s trips abroad and occasional security crises, he repeatedly claimed that investigators would “find nothing because there is nothing.” 
He briefly tried, but failed, to win parliamentary immunity from prosecution. In March, his hand-picked justice minister delayed the trial by two months, citing coronavirus restrictions.
This week, judges rejected Netanyahu’s request to stay home on Sunday and allow his lawyers to represent him. 

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