Israeli court orders Netanyahu to appear at opening of criminal trial
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Israeli court orders Netanyahu to appear at opening of criminal trial

Long-serving Israeli prime minister's lawyers had asked the court for an exemption because his presence was 'not essential'

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi-JINIPIX
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi-JINIPIX

An Israeli court has ordered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to appear at the opening of his criminal trial in Jerusalem on Sunday.

Mr Netanyahu’s lawyers had asked the Jerusalem District Court for an exemption from appearing for the opening of proceedings.

They argued that his presence was “not essential” for the arraignment because their client had “read this indictment several times already”, and that his bodyguards’ presence in the room would violate Health Ministry social distancing requirements.

The court rejected the request, saying Mr Netanyahu “must, like all other accused, appear and give his statement before the court”, and that there were no grounds for granting him an exemption in this case.

Mr Netanyahu was indicted on charges of fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes last year. He has denied any wrongdoing.

His trial was supposed to begin last month, but was delayed by his justice minister due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Mr Netanyahu swore in his fourth consecutive government earlier this week after the country’s third national election in under a year. From his position as prime minister, he is not legally required to resign while under indictment.

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