Irish Examiner

Netanyahu corruption trial to resume in January amid Israeli anger over pandemic

- Tia Goldenberg

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial will resume in January, a court in Jerusalem has decided.

It was not immediatel­y clear if Mr Netanyahu would be required to be present at each of the thrice-weekly evidentiar­y hearings, although some Israeli media reported he would.

Regardless, the gruelling judicial schedule will keep Mr Netanyahu’s legal woes firmly in the national consciousn­ess and conversati­on — and continue to raise questions over whether he can keep serving while simultaneo­usly standing trial.

The court’s decision came after the trial’s second hearing, a procedural deliberati­on that set the pace for the remainder of the proceeding­s.

The trial opened in May after a two-month delay prompted by concerns over coronaviru­s.

Mr Netanyahu is charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals in which he is alleged to have received lavish gifts from billionair­e friends and exchanged regulatory favours with media moguls for more agreeable coverage of himself and his family. He denies wrongdoing, painting the accusation­s as a media-orchestrat­ed witch hunt pursued by a biased law enforcemen­t system.

At the first hearing in May, just before appearing in front of the judges, Mr Netanyahu took to a podium inside the courthouse and, flanked by his party members, condemned the country’s legal institutio­ns in an angry tirade.

Mr Netanyahu did not appear at yesterday’s hearing.

Media reported that Mr Netanyahu’s lawyer asked for a delay in the proceeding­s because of the virus, saying mask-wearing impeded his job of questionin­g witnesses.

The trial resumes as Mr Netanyahu faces widespread anger over his government’s handling of the coronaviru­s crisis.

While the country appeared to have controlled a first wave of infections, what has emerged as a hasty and erratic reopening has sent infections soaring.

Yet even amid the rise in new cases, Mr Netanyahu and his emergency government — formed with the goal of dealing with the crisis — appeared to neglect the numbers and moved forward with its reopening plans and other policy priorities.

It has since reimposed restrictio­ns, including a weekend-only lockdown set to begin later this week.

Israel has seen nearly 50,000 virus cases since the outbreak began, with 406 deaths.

 ??  ?? Israeli demonstrat­ors scuffle with police officers during a protest against corruption and the economic situation in Tel Aviv.
Israeli demonstrat­ors scuffle with police officers during a protest against corruption and the economic situation in Tel Aviv.

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