Netanyahu Corruption Trial Resumes Following 3-month Delay

Published September 13th, 2021 - 10:34 GMT
corruption trial of former prime minister and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu resumed
Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks from behind a glass panel (due to quarantine regulations) at the Knesset (Israeli parliament) from the guest bleachers of the plenum hall during a plenum session on the state budget on September 2, 2021. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
Highlights
Corruption trial of Benjamin Netanyahu for suspected bribery, fraud and breach of trust returned

The public corruption trial of former prime minister and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu resumed at Jerusalem District Court on Monday after a three-month hiatus.

Despite the delay, the case is considered a major contributing factor that has led to the formation of the current coalition and the dethroning of Netanyahu.

The delay was caused by disputes between the prosecution and the defense over new evidence that emerged on the cellphone of the case's first witness, former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua.

Yeshua testified for the prosecution and was cross-examined by the defense in dozens of hearings from April to June in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla Media Bribery Affair.

The prosecution has alleged that Netanyahu used his powers to help Bezeq in telecommunications policy in exchange for favorable media coverage from the Walla news site. Both companies were owned by co-defendant Shaul Elovitch.

Later in the trial, the case will also turn to Case 1000, the Illegal Gifts Affair and Case 2000, the Yediot Ahronot-Yisrael Hayom Affair, but those cases may be several months or more away.

The trial has been frozen since June 16 when the defense accused the prosecution of covering up evidence on Yeshua's cellphone which could help acquit him.

In contrast, the prosecution said it had disclosed many volumes of documents from the phone and that it had simply never checked the other documents, believing they did not relate to the case. 

After being ordered by the court, the prosecution eventually undertook a massive project to vet the remaining phone files and turned over extensive additional documents to the defense.

But the dispute then reignited as the prosecution said that it found new evidence against Netanyahu in the documents, while the defense opposed the prosecution getting to add any new evidence. 

The defense has said that if the prosecution did not use this evidence for its case against Netanyahu until now, it cannot now get a "second bite at the apple" simply because the defense has forced it to turn over new evidence helpful to the defense, which the prosecution previously withheld.

 

The prosecution has said that once the defense demanded it check the additional cell phone records that it "opened the door" to potential new damaging evidence as well.

It appears that the additional evidence was missed because, as extensive as the previous evidence from Yeshua's cell phone was about Case 4000, the prosecution had focused on text messages between Yeshua and Netanyahu messengers or Shaul and Iris Elovitch and had not dug deeply into messages Yeshua sent to other politicians or third parties.

Until the court in mid-June ordered the prosecution to perform searches of these text messages and provide new documents to the defense, the state's position was that such documents were not relevant to the case.

In contrast, the defense argued that such documents could show that Yeshua and Walla gave special treatment to many politicians who interacted directly with him as CEO, and not only to Netanyahu.

They hope this analogy will disprove any bribery charge.

Though the prosecution turned the new evidence over to the defense, it still believes that the new evidence will not help Netanyahu because only he, of all of the politicians, made a deal with Elovitch to systematically influence coverage at Walla for four years from 2013-2016 and used government powers to "pay" for this slanted coverage.

The discovery of the new evidence was only unearthed because the prosecution had accidentally given defense lawyers some text messages between Yeshua and other politicians, leading the defense to correctly guess that there was far more material than what they were given.

It was unclear when the court would decide regarding the new evidence, but Yeshua's testimony has restarted on Monday in parallel to the evidentiary dispute.

This article has been adapted from its original source.


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