Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu begins corruption trial

24 Mai, 2020, 23:48 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Hundreds of people have taken part in rival protests in favour of Netanyahu and against him on Sunday

Benjamin Netanyahu professed his innocence at the start of his corruption trial on Sunday, saying he was being framed in the first criminal prosecution of a serving Israeli prime minister. Israeli police have said they have evidence that from 2014 to 2017, while Netanyahu served as minister of communications as well as prime minister, he intervened with regulators to help Bezeq merge with another large Israeli communications company. He denies the charges, which come after years of scandals swirling around the family. Netanyahu accused police and prosecutors of working together to try to "depose" him from his role.

The leader of the right-wing Likud party is Israel's longest-serving prime minister, having been in power continuously since 2009.

He stood in a face mask and refused to sit down on the defendants' bench until the reporters left the room, local media say.

In this case, Fuchs said, the allegation is that Netanyahu "is getting only media coverage", rather than cash.

His lawyers said they would need two to three months to respond to the arraignment and also said they needed additional funds for their defense's legal time.

In a tweet sent as the court session was coming to a close, Netanyahu's key coalition ally, Benny Gantz, wrote Netanyahu was innocent until proved guilty and expressed confidence the legal system would provide the Prime Minister with a fair trial.

On Sunday, Netanyahu, as he has often done, decried the proceedings as "an attempted coup d'état" by what he described as a vast left-wing conspiracy that "stitched up charges" so as to "block the will of the people".

"I read the indictment and I understand its content", Netanyahu told the court.

Its inauguration ended more than a year of political deadlock in the wake of three inconclusive elections.

Netanyahu was sworn in for a record fifth term as prime minister last week.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu's supporters chanted slogans against what they said was an unfair trial against their leader.

Netanyahu's Corruption Trial Begins In Jerusalem
Protesters demonstrate against Netanyahu just before his corruption trial opens

Netanyahu had requested to skip the opening day of trial.

The veteran premier, who has just forged a unity government after over a year of political turmoil, now faces the next challenge - being the country's first premier to face criminal charges while in office.

What does the trial mean for the country?

. He has denied any wrongdoing, and has dismissed the charges against him as a "witch hunt" by media and law enforcement.

Some 250 pro-Netanyahu demonstrators are protesting in front of the District Court in Jerusalem.

"We won't allow an image of Netanyahu being humiliated", said Ran Carmi Buzaglo, one of the protesters.

Small demonstrations of both supporters and opponents gathered in Jerusalem. "Netanyahu is trying to drag us into a civil war to save himself from trial", he told the Ynet website. The accusations were first made three years ago.

Even if he is convicted, Mr Netanyahu will not be required to resign unless and until any appeals are exhausted - which could, in theory, be many months or years into the future.

However, in a stunning turnaround, Gantz, citing fears of a fourth expensive election and the coronavirus pandemic, agreed to shelve the legislation and instead form a power-sharing government with Netanyahu.

Netanyahu's proceedings were supposed to begin in March, but were delayed by his justice minister who issued restrictions on the courts amid the coronavirus crisis. Click the link to confirm your subscription and begin receiving our newsletters.

Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion contributed to this report. For your security, we've sent a confirmation email to the address you entered.

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