Knesset Speaker Calls to Suspend Netanyahu Trial Until After Election

YERUSHALAYIM -
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud). (Flash90)

Just one day before a scheduled court hearing in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s trial, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin called for the next phase the trial to be postponed in order to prevent “blatant election interference.”

Netanyahu is scheduled to appear in court on Monday to provide a response to the charges. The hearing was set to be held a month earlier before being postponed.

In an interview published Sunday, with Yisrael Hayom, Levin said that in a democratic country, the legal system is careful to stay away from anything that might seem as election interference, “but this basic rule has already been crudely trampled on by our legal system.”

He suggested that an example for this was Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit informing the public that had decided to indict the prime minister “mere weeks” before the election in April 2019, “without the prime minister being able to respond to these suspicions” before voters went to the polls.

Levin also complained that the indictment was formally issued a month before the election last March, and on the same day on which Netanyahu and former President Donald Trump unveiled the Trump administration’s Mideast plan. He warned of “another blatant and unprecedented intervention by the judiciary in the election” and said the courts must reject beginning the evidence phase of the trial before the election.

“The legal process must not keep getting exploited to provide one-sided testimony in order to damage Netanyahu’s and Likud’s chances of winning the election,” Levin said. “A situation in which prosecution witnesses are heard before the election, while the defense witnesses – including the prime minister – are heard after the election is an unfair situation in which there is blatant and severe interference in the election process.”

Last November, the Yerushalayim District Court agreed to delay the evidence phase from January until February after agreeing to extend the deadline for Netanyahu’s defense attorneys to file a formal response to the indictment against him. The lawyers were originally due to file a response to the indictment by October 18, but the deadline was deferred until November 29, before being extended again until January 13.