“Impossible to Conduct Netanyahu Trial in Masks!”

Judge unimpressed by defense team’s excuses, but postpones next phase of trial till January

“Impossible to Conduct Netanyahu Trial in Masks!”
Amit Shabi/POOL

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial resumed on Sunday, and immediately the prime minister’s lawyers demanded it be postponed for at least six months.

“We are not ready yet in terms of evidence, and I can’t interrogate witnesses when everyone’s wearing a mask,” complained Netanyahu’s lawyer, Adv. Yossi Negev, in remarks reported by Israel’s N12 news portal.

Netanyahu himself and the others charged in the various cases against him are not required to appear before the court during this stage of the trial. But, the prosecution and different defense teams do have many witnesses to interrogate.

According to Judge Rivka Fridman-Feldman, this shouldn’t be a problem.

“Believe me,” she insisted, “it’s possible” to interrogate and try a case while wearing masks in accordance with government restrictions to contain the coronavirus.

But Segev shot back: “This is a case where every word matters, and I can’t look for signs of truth” when the witness is wearing a mask.

The judge wondered if the defense was suggesting that the courts close entirely, but Segev stressed he just wanted to wait another six months.

According to Segev, Netanyahu’s defense team is also not ready in terms of reviewing all the evidence. This is due to the fact that the prime minister has had to change his defense team after it was ruled he could not accept monetary gifts from wealthy benefactors to pay for more expensive legal representation. Netanyahu’s defense team thus initially requested a one year postponement in the next phase of the trial.

Judge Fridman-Feldman was equally unimpressed by this.

“I am really trying to figure out how you guys see this playing out,” she said. “It’s not possible for you to come in here with a different lawyer every time. We are in the middle of a proceeding.”

The prosecution, meanwhile, pushed to start calling witnesses as soon as next month.

Ultimately, it was decided that the trial would proceed starting in January of next year, both to give the defense a little more time to prepare and to see what happens in the coming months in regards to Israel’s second wave of coronavirus infections.

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