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Court Insists Netanyahu Must Attend Opening Session of Criminal Trial

An Israeli court has rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s request to skip the beginning of his trial for three separate corruption cases that is set to begin on Sunday. “The rule is that a defendant is present for the reading [of the indictment], which is the opening of the trial. This is the case in every criminal procedure,” the judges wrote in their ruling. Netanyahu had argued that he did not have to attend the session as he had already read the indictment and his large security detail would violate coronavirus-related guidelines limiting the number of people in the small courtroom. In what is known in Israel as Case 1000, the prime minister, who was sworn in for a fifth term this week, is accused of accepting lavish gifts in return for providing favors to wealthy benefactors. In Case 2000, Netanyahu allegedly sought to trade benefits to Yediot Aharonot owner Arnon Mozes in return for positive newspaper coverage. Finally, in Case 4000, he is suspected of soliciting positive media coverage for himself and his family from the owner of the popular Walla news site, Shaul Elovitch, who is the controlling shareholder of the Bezeq communications giant. In return, Netanyahu allegedly helped Bezeq buy the Israeli satellite cable provider Yes while overriding any anti-trust issues raised by ministry officials, including huge regulatory fees. Netanyahu is the first sitting Israeli premier to go on trial for criminal offenses. After Sunday, the next hearing is expected to be held only several months from now.