Netanyahu’s corruption trial to begin in January
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Netanyahu’s corruption trial to begin in January

Prime Minister's lawyer had tried to delay the hearing claiming 'it will be hard for me to face a masked witness and see if he’s telling the truth'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, wearing a face mask in line with public health restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, enters the court room with his lawyer as his corruption trial opens at the Jerusalem District Court, Sunday, May 24, 2020.  He is the countryÕs first sitting prime minister ever to go on trial, facing charges of fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes in a series of corruption cases stemming from ties to wealthy friends. (Ronen Zvulun/ Pool Photo via AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, wearing a face mask in line with public health restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, enters the court room with his lawyer as his corruption trial opens at the Jerusalem District Court, Sunday, May 24, 2020. He is the countryÕs first sitting prime minister ever to go on trial, facing charges of fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes in a series of corruption cases stemming from ties to wealthy friends. (Ronen Zvulun/ Pool Photo via AP)

Judges have said Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial will begin in January next year, telling the Israeli leader that he will be required to attend court at least three times.

Lawyers acting the prime minister had sought a delay beyond January citing coronavirus concerns, with attorney Yossi Segev going so far as to say: “It will be hard for me to face a masked witness and see if he’s telling the truth.”

Some of Netanyahu’s legal team have already walked, citing unpaid fees, and he could yet lose more after judges ruled that they could not be paid by his wealthy friends.

The charges against Netanyahu, who denies any wrongdoing, centre on three cases, all involving millionaire friends.

In the first case, the PM is alleged to have received gifts worth £300,000 from a businessman in return for helping him buy an Israeli TV channel and get a US visa.

In the second case, Netanyahu is accused of planning to help a newspaper owner by restricting a rival’s circulation, and in the third case he allegedly promoted regulatory decisions that saved a telecoms tycoon £400 million. In both these cases, Netanyahu is said to have sought positive news coverage, in the third case from a news website owned by the telecoms shareholder.

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