A three-judge panel at the Jerusalem District Court on Sunday decided that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial would begin hearing its first witnesses in January 2021. The court, presided over by Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman, decided to hear witnesses and take evidence three days a week.
Netanyahu, now the longest-serving Israeli Prime Minister, had in November 2019, been indicted for corruption in three separate cases. He is the first incumbent Prime Minister of Israel to be tried, and the charges against him include bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The trial opened on May 24, and Netanyahu denied the allegations while censuring the media and the law enforcement system.
The ruling came after Netanyahu’s legal team asked for a six-month delay, citing difficulties in examining witnesses while they wore a mask. The court maintained that further prolongments in the trial would not be allowed.
While the sentence for bribery is up to 10 years in prison, it is three years for fraud and breach of trust. It remains to be seen whether Netanyahu continues his term as Prime Minister even while standing trial, a peculiar situation without precedent and no law requiring him to step down.