Daily US Times: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces trial for corruption charges at a Jerusalem court. It comes just days after he began a new term in office.
The 70-year-old Prime Minister is the first standing leader to face trial in the country’s history. He denies accusations of fraud, bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.
He was in the courthouse for a short hearing, where he said the cases were aimed at “toppling him in any way possible”.
Mr Netanyahu has sworn back into office as head of a rare unity government a week ago.
Benny Gantz, his political rival, agreed to share power following three inconclusive elections in under a year. The Prime Minister has rejected calls by opponents to step down while he fights the cases.
The right-wing Likud Party leader is the country’s longest-serving prime minister, having been in power continuously since 2009. He also served a term in office from 1996-1999.
What happened at the court?
On Sunday, after arriving at the Jerusalem District Court, he told reporters: “I’m here with a straight back and my head held high.”
He added: “When you need to take me down, a strong prime minister from the right, everything is possible.”
The hearing lasted an hour and at the start of it, he told the judges: “I read and I understand the indictment.”
Local media reports that he stood in a face mask and refused to sit down on the defendants’ bench until the reporters left the room.
Mr Netanyahu’s lawyers say they need several months to prepare their defence. The next hearing has been set for 19 July.
What is Benjamin Netanyahu accused of?
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu faces trial for three three cases, known as 1,000, 2,000 and 4,000:
Case 1,000 – Fraud and breach of trust: he is accused of receiving bottles of champagne and cigars – from powerful businessmen in exchange for favours.
Case 2,000 – Fraud and breach of trust: he is accused that in exchange for positive coverage he offered to help improve the circulation of Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot.
Case 4,000 – Fraud, breach of trust and bribery: as PM and minister of communications at the time of the alleged offence, Mr Netanyahu is accused of promoting regulatory decisions favoarable to the controlling shareholder in the Bezeq telecom giant, Shaul Elovitch, in exchange for positive coverage by Mr Elovitch’s Walla news site.
He has strongly denied all the charges against him and branded them a “witch-hunt” by political opponents. He also vowed to clear his name.