Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared in the Jerusalem District Court on Monday to face charges against him in Cases 1000, 2000 and 4000, alleging bribery, breach of trust, and fraud.
Netanyahu, who left the court after a short session, pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The hearing began with an oral statement from the various defendants, including the prime minister, following the written answers their lawyers sent to the court last month.
Due to the Coronavirus constraints, the hearing took place in the new and larger courtroom. The number of representatives of each defendant was limited, the journalists sat in another room when what happened in the courtroom was broadcast to them on CCTV.
Netanyahu asked his supporters not to arrive at the court and not to congregate. A small group of anti-Netanyahu protestors staged a demonstration near the court.
What’s he on trial for?
- The first case, Case 1000, involves expensive gifts that Netanyahu allegedly received from wealthy supporters, particularly from Israeli-born movie producer Arnon Milchan, possibly in return for favors.
- Case 2000 alleges bribery between Netanyahu and Yediot Aharonot owner Arnon Mozes. Netanyahu supposedly offered to use his power to hinder the influence of Yediot’s main rival, Israel Hayom, through legislation that would minimize Israel Hayom’s distribution, in return for Yediot’s reduction of negative coverage of Netanyahu.
- Case 4000 alleges that Shaul Elovitch, former owner of Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq and of the Walla! news portal, pressured his CEO, Ilan Yeshua, to arrange positive coverage of Netanyahu on Walla! in exchange for the prime minister advancing regulations that would benefit Elovitch. The regulatory benefits were worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Bezeq, of which Elovitch was a major shareholder at the time.
The trial is expected to last for years.
Netanyahu, the first sitting prime minister in Israel’s history to be tried, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and his supporters have called the allegations a witch hunt by a “hostile media” against him and his family and have accused the judicial system of attempting to unseat a prime minister in an undemocratic process.