Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers accused the State Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday of ulterior motives in its opposition to their request that their client be excused from the opening session of his trial.
Netanyahu’s trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust was initially scheduled to begin on March 17, but was postponed when the courts were closed at the outset of the coronavirus crisis. It is now slated to begin on May 24.
Attorneys Amit Haddad and Micha Fetman argued that the need for the prime minister’s presence at the reading of his criminal charges is a mere “technicality,” according to Israeli media reports.
Prosecutor Judith Tirosh of the Israel Securities Authority argued that Netanyahu’s presence at the arraignment hearing was crucial as it would increase the public’s faith in the proceedings and uphold the principle of equality before the law for criminal defendants. She rejected the claims that the opening hearing is a “mere technicality” and that the presence of Netanyahu’s attorneys would suffice.
“This is the opening of the defendant’s trial and carries a legal significance that is written into law requiring the accused to be present at the reading of charges, regardless of the presence of counsel,” she said.
Haddad said the prosecutor’s stance was “serving the campaign of presenting a picture of Prime Minister Netanyahu on the defendants’ bench as a continuation of the ‘anyone-but-Bibi’ campaign.”
Haddad and Fetman filed a motion with the Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday night to resolve the dispute.

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