Israel's Netanyahu 'requests' not to appear before court for corruption trial opening

Israel's Netanyahu 'requests' not to appear before court for corruption trial opening
Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu is due to appear in court for the first day of his corruption trial on Sunday, but the prime minister has made a request to opt out.
2 min read
19 May, 2020
Netanyahu faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of public trust [AFP]
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has filed a request to skip a scheduled court appearance at the opening of his trial on corruption charges later this week, local media reported.

Netanyahu's lawyers are expected to claim the unusual exemption is necessary as the trial's opening on Sunday involves technical discussions which do not justify the necessary security arrangements to have the premier appear in court, Israeli media outlet Walla News reported.

Israel's longest-serving prime minister was in January formally charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, becoming the first Israeli premier ever indicted in office.

On Sunday, Netanyahu renewed his term as prime minister as part of an historic unity government in coalition with centrist Benny Gantz. He is due to serve as leader for 18 months before handing over the role to Gantz, a former military chief, for another 18 months. Gantz will start out as defence minister.

The deal to form a unity administration designed to tackle the fallout of the coronavirus crisis came despite protests from the public and opposition lawmakers over Netanyahu's alleged corrupt dealings with the media.

It is unknown whether the court will accept the defence team's request. The criminal trial of a serving prime minister is unprecedented in the country's history.

Netanyahu's lawyers had previously filed a request to see the trial delayed on a technicality. That request was denied but the trial, scheduled to begin in March, was ultimately delayed due to the coronavirus crisis.

The premier has previously pledged to appear before the court while denying all charges, claiming the ordeal was a media-orchestrated plot to oust him from power.

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