Benjamin Netanyahu is innocent

Israel: Corruption process: Netanyahu declares himself innocent

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has officially rejected the corruption allegations against him for the first time in court. At the beginning of the session, the Prime Minister, who appeared in the courtroom wearing a black mask, denied the allegations of fraud, infidelity and corruption. Netanyahu had previously accused the police and prosecutors of "fabricating" the charges against him. Opponents of Netanyahu demonstrated loudly outside the Jerusalem court.

The 71-year-old attended the meeting for about twenty minutes. Netanyahu's lawyer then spoke of alleged procedural errors in a long speech. He accused the police of investigating the head of government without the attorney general's written permission. The prosecution denied this. Everything was recorded in writing.

The court ended the day of the session after around four hours. A decision to postpone the start of the witness interviews was not initially made. According to Israeli media reports, the defense pressed for a postponement of at least three months.

"Bibi go Home"

Dozens of Netanyahu's opponents gathered in front of the District Court in Jerusalem for a demonstration. One of the opponents was wearing prison clothing and a Netanyahu mask. A group of demonstrators was disguised as street sweepers who symbolically cleared the streets of corruption. "Bibi go home", the opponents kept shouting in chants. Bibi is Netanyahu's nickname. He himself had asked his followers not to come because of the pandemic, so only a few supporters came.

The meeting was originally supposed to take place in January, but was postponed due to a corona lockdown. Before the new session, President of Parliament Yariv Levin called for the taking of evidence in the trial against Netanyahu to be postponed until after the general election on March 23. Otherwise, there is a risk of "interference by the judiciary in the election process," said Levin, a member of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, according to media reports.

It is the first time in Israel's history that an incumbent prime minister is on trial. Netanyahu wants to run again in six weeks. Israel is voting for the fourth time in two years. (apa, dpa)