The trial against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began in Jerusalem on Sunday, marking the first time in Israel’s history that a sitting prime minister has ever faced trial.
The 70-year-old began his fifth term as prime minister this month as part of a power-sharing agreement with his rival Benny Gantz after a series of back-to-back elections failed to result in a coalition government over the past year.
Last year, Netanyahu was indicted on bribery, fraud, and breach of trust charges as part of three separate corruption cases:
“Case 1,000” refers to accusations that Netanyahu received expensive gifts from wealthy business magnates in exchange for favors. “Case 2,000” refers to allegations that Netanyahu promoted a particular newspaper in exchange for more positive coverage. And “Case 4,000” alleges that Netanyahu granted regulatory benefits to a major Israeli telecommunications company in exchange for favorable media coverage.
The maximum sentence for bribery is 10 years in prison, according to Haaretz.
Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister to be indicted while in office. Previous leaders who faced similar situations resigned before charges were even handed down.
The trial against Netanyahu was delayed by two months because of Israel’s coronavirus outbreak. He has repeatedly denied all accusations of wrongdoing and claims that he is a victim of a political “witch-hunt” orchestrated by the left and the media.
Prior to the trial, Netanyahu said that the trial was an attempt to “topple” his government.
Netanyahu stood in a face mask as the trial began, refusing to sit until the media left the room, according to The Times of Israel. The prime minister will not be mandated to attend the next hearing scheduled to take place on July 19.
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