Israeli PM Netanyahu enters not guilty plea
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleaded not guilty yesterday to corruption charges at the resumption of his trial, six weeks before voters again head to the polls to pass judgment on his leadership.
“I confirm the written answer submitted in my name,” Netanyahu said, standing before the three-judge panel in the heavily guarded Jerusalem District Court.
He was referring to a document his lawyers gave the court last month in which they argued that Netanyahu was not guilty of charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud.
Netanyahu, 71, the first serving Israeli leader to be charged with a crime, seemed intent on projecting an air of business as usual, thanking the court and leaving without explanation some 20 minutes into the session.
He was indicted in 2019 in long-running cases involving gifts from millionaire friends and for allegedly seeking regulatory favors for media tycoons in return for favorable coverage.
His quick departure from the court building seemed aimed at showing the public that he would not allow the trial to interfere with government business as Israel begins to emerge from a monthlong coronavirus lockdown.
Before that session got under way, Netanyahu delivered a speech from a podium in the corridor, condemning his prosecution as a left-wing witch hunt aimed at ousting a right-wing prime minister as a phalanx of Cabinet officials stood at his side.
Israel will hold its fourth parliamentary election in two years on March 23, with Netanyahu’s handling of the health crisis and his alleged corruption the main issues stoking weekly protests against him.