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Court: Netanyahu not obligated to hear testimony of Walla CEO

CM 01/04/2021 6

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The Jerusalem District Court on Thursday endorsed a loose compromise between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the prosecution in which he will attend the prosecution’s opening statement for his public corruption trial on Monday, but will not stick around for the first witness.
Late Wednesday, a spokesman for Netanyahu said that, “since the prime minister had no connection with [first witness and former Walla CEO] Ilan Yeshua, and therefore his presence would not contribute anything in any way to the hearing, Netanyahu’s lawyers will request an exemption from the questioning of Yeshua. This is an accepted request in cases similar to this one.”
However, the prosecution then responded to Netanyahu’s lawyers saying, “the prosecution believes that there is a substantive need for the defendant [Netanyahu] to be present for the opening statement, which has the status of opening the entire prosecution case, both in terms of the defendant hearing the allegations directly and without intermediaries, and in terms of the perception of doing justice.”
Regarding hearing Yeshua’s testimony, the prosecution said there were legal arguments to be made both for Netanyahu being present or having the right to absent himself, since much of the idea of being present is designed to protect the rights of defendants, not to impose on their time.
Netanyahu has sought to avoid attending hearings for his trial, with Monday being only the third time he will show up personally, despite around a dozen pretrial hearings since May 2020.
Some groups have tried to argue that he must legally resign as prime minister given the toll that the trial will take on his time.
Netanyahu appears to want to avoid such allegations as well as to keep perceptions of him focused on positive vibes, like his management of foreign affairs or the coronavirus vaccine rollout, and away from the corruption allegations.

The prosecution and the court have until now shown flexibility about his attendance.
But it is expected that Netanyahu will want to attend or be compelled to attend when key state’s witnesses testify against him for illegal orders they say he gave them to carry out.
NETANYAHU IS accused of bribery for illegally influencing government communications policy in exchange for positive media coverage in Case 4000, the “Bezeq-Walla Affair.”
In Case 2000, the “Yediot AharonotIsrael Hayom Affair,” he is accused of breach of trust for trying to reduce Israel Hayom’s competitiveness in exchange for more positive coverage from Yediot.
In Case 1000, the “Illegal Gifts Affair,” he is accused of breach of trust for receiving expensive cigars and champagne at a value of nearly NIS 700,000. The gifts were received from people with whom he may have had a conflict of interest for trying to help them in the business sector.   
According to the amended indictment, from January 17-19, 2013 – days before the January 22, 2013 election – Netanyahu, through messengers, made no fewer than six demands for Walla owner Shaul Elovitch to influence media coverage positively for him and negatively for Naftali Bennett and the Bayit Yehudi Party.
All of the Netanyahu-Elovitch plans led to the coverage the prime minister wanted, including negative coverage of Bennett’s wife allegedly eating at a non-kosher restaurant, in exchange for the prime minister helping Elovitch’s Bezeq obtain NIS one billion ($300 million) in profits.
Yeshua, and later other editors and reporters from Walla, are expected to give a detailed description of exactly how they went about fulfilling Netanyahu’s demands, which included numerous takedowns of articles that were good for his competitors.
They will say they knew that these changes went far beyond the typical access for coverage arrangements that other politicians regularly make with the media, which for one thing, does not lead to reducing coverage for competitors.
Eventually, there were 315 alleged incidents of Netanyahu interfering with Walla’s news coverage from 2013 until December 2016.
Yeshua was key to breaking open the all-important Case 4000, as the information he gave police led to multiple top Netanyahu aides turning state’s witness against the prime minister.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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