Netanyahu’s trial may be delayed

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PM convinces court to resolve missing evidence dispute before response to indictment.

WITH HIS court case looming on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is launching a last-ditch campaign against the levers of civil society, in particular the judiciary, the police and the role of the free press. (photo credit: TAL SHAHAR/REUTERS)

WITH HIS court case looming on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is launching a last-ditch campaign against the levers of civil society, in particular the judiciary, the police and the role of the free press.

(photo credit: TAL SHAHAR/REUTERS)

An order issued by the Jerusalem District Court on Thursday may delay the start of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial, which is slated to begin in early January.

The court’s order extended Netanyahu’s time to formally respond to the public corruption indictment against him from October 18 until November 29.

Earlier Thursday, Netanyahu opened a new front in his legal battles, telling the Jerusalem District Court he could not formally respond to the public corruption indictment against him until the judges compel the state prosecution to turn over the missing evidence he has requested.

In the background were two key dates.

Netanyahu was due to respond to the indictment by October 18. But the court recently scheduled a hearing to decide disputes between the sides about alleged missing evidence only for November 15.

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The move by Netanyahu’s lawyers appeared to be an attempt to gain some leverage in the battle over additional internal prosecution documents relating to alleged coercion of state’s witnesses.

While the prosecution has said these are internal documents that it does not need to turn over, the defense has demanded these documents.

On Thursday, Netanyahu’s defense lawyers Boaz Ben Tzur and Amit Hadad said the court must also decide a motion they have filed to compel the prosecution to amend the indictment itself.

Netanyahu’s motion placed the court in a catch-22 situation.

If the court had ignored the defense’s requests, they could have claimed that the judges are not permitting due process for being able to respond to the indictment.

Instead, the court accepted the defense’s request. But this means a six-week delay in the course of the case and potentially some pretrial motions, which likely will delay the start of the trial.

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Alternatively, the court could have moved the November 15 hearing date up to sometime in the next week or two with the response to the indictment shortly after.

However, this would have required the court to move at an extraordinary pace in reviewing the disputed issues between the sides and during a time period when the courts were set to go on vacation.

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