Israel: Benjamin Netanyahu pleads not guilty as corruption trial resumes

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu smiles after first exit poll results for the Israeli elections at his party's headquarters in Tel Aviv. Photo: AP/PTI

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleaded not guilty at the resumption of his corruption trial in Jerusalem on Monday.

Wearing a black mask, Netanyahu appeared in front of a three-judge panel at the Jerusalem District Court to officially deny the allegations against him, the Xinhua news agency reported.

"I confirm the written answer submitted in my name," Netanyahu said, referring to a document submitted by his lawyers in which they rejected the charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

He left after about 20 minutes without providing an explanation, while his lawyers continued to argue on his behalf. The Hebrew-language Ha'aretz newspaper reported that the judges approved his departure.

His lawyers, Boaz Ben Zur and Amit Hadad, argued that constitutional procedures had been breached. The prosecution rejected the allegation and said the opening of the investigation was approved by Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit.

Israel's longest-serving Prime Minister stands to trial over corruption charges in three separate cases. According to his indictment, he accepted luxurious gifts from wealthy friends and offered regulatory benefits to media tycoons in return for favorable media coverage.

The 71-year-old leader has repeatedly that the allegations are part of "a witch hunt" orchestrated by the "leftist" media.

Netanyahu is the first serving prime minister to stand to trial in Israel.

On March 23, Israel will hold its fourth general elections in two years. Netanyahu is handling his trial while leading the struggle to curb the coronavirus spread and the ensuing economic crisis. He is facing weekly demonstrations throughout Israel calling him to resign.



(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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