Yona Metzge

Yona Metzger

The corruption trial of Israel’s former chief rabbi has begun in Jerusalem.

Lawyers for Yona Metzger appeared in court on Thursday to discuss charges of bribery, money laundering and income tax violations.

A defence lawyer noted that investigating police had eavesdropped on Metzger for two years.

Yona Metzger ended his term early, in 2013, over the charges.

Israel has two chief rabbis, representing the Ashkenazi, or European tradition, and the Sephardic tradition from the Middle East and North Africa. Together they lead the country’s supreme body overseeing Jewish religious services.

Metzger, who served as Ashkenazi chief rabbi, is the highest-ranking Israeli rabbi to face corruption charges.

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert began an 18-month sentence for corruption in February. Former president Moshe Katsav is in prison for rape.