Court Orders Netanyahu to Appear for Opening of Trial

View of the Yerushalayim District Court. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Yerushalayim District Court accepted the State Prosecution’s position stating that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu must attend a hearing to open his trial on Sunday.

Netanyahu’s attorneys had asked the court for an exemption from appearing for the opening of proceedings.

The court rejected the request, saying the accused appearing for the reading of the indictment is the rule and there are no grounds for granting Netanyahu an exemption in this case.

The court dismissed Netanyahu’s argument that he has already read and understands the charges against him, and therefore does not need to announce this publicly in court.

The judges also dismissed the claim that with his large security detail, the court won’t be able to adhere to the Health Ministry’s social distancing guidelines if Netanyahu is indeed required to attend the trial. They wrote that they have instructed the authorities to be prepared and that there will be no issue with following the guidelines.

Netanyahu was indicted on charges of fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes last year. He has denied any wrongdoing in the series of scandals involving accepting lavish gifts from wealthy friends and trading media reforms for positive coverage.

Netanyahu claims he is the victim of a politically orchestrated “witch hunt” by the media and the left to oust him from office.

Netanyahu’s trial was supposed to begin last month, but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

His legal team says that criminal investigations into relations between politicians and the news media threaten press freedom.

Netanyahu swore in his fourth consecutive government earlier this week. As prime minister, he is not legally required to resign while under indictment.