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Netanyahu pre-indictment hearing begins, attorneys to present ‘new evidence’

“When we are finished presenting our side, there will be no option other than to close the case,” say lawyers for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israelis demonstrate in support of Benjamin Netanyahu outside the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ahead of the hearing on various corruption cases involving the prime minister, Oct. 1, 2019. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.
Israelis demonstrate in support of Benjamin Netanyahu outside the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ahead of the hearing on various corruption cases involving the prime minister, Oct. 1, 2019. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-indictment hearing began on Wednesday at the office of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in Jerusalem.

Over the next four days, Netanyahu’s attorneys, Amit Hadad, Ram Caspi and Yossi Ashkenazi, will try to convince Mandelblit to reduce or dismiss the charges against the prime minister.

According to Israeli media, as the meeting began, Caspi said, “There is material that can change the way things seem. The issue of clemency or a plea bargain is not on the table.”

Hadad added, “We will present the evidence we are all familiar with, as well as new evidence. We are certain that when we are finished presenting our side, there will be no option other than to close the case. We believe in the hearing process. We are not talking about a deal. We believe that in the end, all three cases must be closed.”

The most serious charges Netanyahu faces—in “Case 4000”—will be reviewed on Wednesday and Thursday. These center on allegations that he traded regulatory benefits with Bezeq telecommunications primary shareholder and family friend Shaul Elovitch for favorable coverage of the Netanyahu family on Bezeq’s Walla News.

In “Case 2000,” scheduled for review on Sunday, Netanyahu is suspected of fraud and breach of trust in allegedly conspiring with Yediot Achronot publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes to limit the circulation of competing Israel Hayom in exchange for positive coverage.

The final day of the pre-indictment hearing will review “Case 1000,” in which Netanyahu is being investigated for fraud and breach of trust for allegedly accepting bribes in the form of $200,000 worth of gifts from Israeli Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer, in exchange for business and political favors.

The pre-indictment hearing was originally scheduled for just two days, but last week the attorney general agreed to Netanyahu’s attorneys’ request to extend the hearing so they could present all of their arguments.

Netanyahu denies all wrongdoing in all three criminal cases against him as he works to build a majority government following September’s second round of elections.

If legislation is not passed to grant immunity to sitting premiers, he could face prosecution while in office, which would result in new elections being called.

To avoid prosecution in the cases, Netanyahu would need to be granted immunity by a majority vote in the Knesset and pass legislation preventing the possibility of the Supreme Court overturning the Knesset decision.

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