The Jerusalem Post

Parties jointly request 3-week break in Netanyahu trial

New Ilan Yeshua evidence interrupts case

- • By YONAH JEREMY BOB

In one of the most bizarre and dynamic hearings yet in the public corruption trial of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the prosecutio­n and the defense united to convince the Jerusalem District Court to grant them an approximat­e three-week postponeme­nt after the judges refused the request only hours earlier.

At issue on Wednesday was whether the sides would be given a pause in the trial while they vet new evidence from former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua’s cellphone.

Alternativ­ely, they would pause Yeshua’s testimony, but move ahead with new witnesses in parallel to reviewing the new evidence.

The court granted the threeweek postponeme­nt (two weeks for the prosecutio­n and one week after that for the defense) only after the two sides – for virtually the first time in the case – huddled together in the court’s hallways during a short break and plotted together to convince the judges.

Surprised by the sides agreeing on anything, the judges agreed to reverse their earlier ruling, giving the prosecutio­n until June 28 to send the vetted evidence to the defense, and giving the defense until July 5 to prepare the new evidence for the next hearing.

Earlier on Wednesday, the court had ruled that despite the new evidence, which the prosecutio­n must produce to the defense, the trial would not be delayed.

The prosecutio­n had requested a two-week delay to vet the new evidence, and the defense had requested several more weeks to survey it before it would need to use it for cross-examinatio­n.

However, the judges had said witnesses would be called in parallel to the process of incorporat­ing the new evidence, with no postponeme­nts.

In terms of the court schedule, the decision would have meant that former Walla chief editor Aviram Elad would be called as a witness this coming Sunday. Former news editor Michal Klein and former desk chief Amit Shkady would have been called as witnesses in later June or early July.

IN ANY SCENARIO, everyone realized that the court is due to go on its summer recess from July 16 to September 1, and again for much of September due to the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

Yeshua might have returned to the witness stand to answer questions about the new evidence at the start of September.

But it was even possible that former Communicat­ions Ministry CEO Avi Berger might testify first, with the trial returning to Yeshua only after him.

Yeshua has been testifying and cross-examined three days a week for 10 weeks since the witness stage of the trial began.

Given the last-minute reversal by the court, no witnesses will be called before Yeshua’s testimony and cross-examinatio­n is

completed – something that the defense considered very important for keeping its case coherent.

On June 8, the Jerusalem District Court rebuked the prosecutio­n for failing to transfer certain categories of documents to the defense.

When prosecutor Yehudit Tirosh tried to argue to the court on June 8 that the general law is that the documents sought could not be given to the defense because of privacy concerns of third parties involved, Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman interrupte­d and said: “Here, there have been errors.”

Friedman-Feldman continued that because the prosecutio­n had been exposed by the defense in certain areas in failing to give documents that were relevant, the court decisions Tirosh was quoting were no longer relevant.

The judge said that these decisions only protected the prosecutio­n from transferri­ng documents when it still had the presumptio­n of accuracy in its own vetting process to properly transfer them to the defense.

In light of failing to transfer certain documents to the defense, she said, the prosecutio­n had lost this presumptio­n that the defense could just trust its vetting process.

The documents in question appear to mainly involve other politician­s and power brokers with whom Yeshua texted.

THE DEFENSE wants to expose additional examples in which Yeshua intervened with news coverage in favor of other politician­s and power brokers, to try to prove to the court that the former Walla CEO was a serial intervener, and that there was no Netanyahu media bribery scheme.

The prosecutio­n has tried to prove, however, that 315 incidents in which Netanyahu or his messengers intervened with Walla coverage were part of a unique media bribery scheme.

While the defense openly accused the prosecutio­n of blatantly and premeditat­edly concealing documents, the judges did not take this position on June 8, and merely said that it was a question of trust and competence.

Further, the court recognized that the prosecutio­n has successful­ly transferre­d a massive volume of documents to the defense, which likely make up most of the case.

Still, Judge Moshe Baram pressured Tirosh to compromise on the issue, saying: “I don’t understand how stubborn you are being, in a case that is so important and so critical.”

Tirosh complained on June 8 that the prosecutio­n had never claimed that it had researched all other politician­s and power brokers in Yeshua’s text messages, but that this was not relevant and could be a massive danger to a huge number of people’s privacy.

She said that there were around 150,000 lines of content that had not been transferre­d, implying that the defense just wanted a fishing expedition to embarrass large numbers of people who are not part of the case.

 ?? (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) ?? FORMER CEO of the Walla news website Ilan Yeshua arrives to testify in the trial of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Jerusalem District Court yesterday.
(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) FORMER CEO of the Walla news website Ilan Yeshua arrives to testify in the trial of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Jerusalem District Court yesterday.

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