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Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu appears in court to face key witness in corruption trial

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  • Israel’s
    former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared in court, despite not being required
    to attend the trial hearings in his corruption trial.
  • He
    heard the testimony of his former spokesperson and close adviser Nir Hefetz, a key
    prosecution witness in his trial.
  • Netanyahu
    pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud in cases
    that centre on alleged regulatory favours.

JERUSALEM
– Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared in court on Monday
to face a key prosecution witness in his corruption trial.

Netanyahu,
who served as prime minister for 12 years until June, has pleaded not guilty to
charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud in cases that centre on alleged
regulatory favours he awarded to media tycoons in return for positive press
coverage and receipt of gifts, including cigars and champagne.

Netanyahu,
now opposition leader, smiled under his black facemask as he walked into the
Jerusalem District courtroom to hear the testimony of his former spokesperson
and close adviser Nir Hefetz, one of a small group of ex-aides to turn state’s
witness against the country’s first premier to be criminally charged while
still in office.

Hefetz told the
court:

Netanyahu spends at least as much as his time on media as he spends on security matters, including on matters an outsider would consider nonsense.

Netanyahu,
72, is not required to attend the trial hearings and he has made few court
appearances. He made no comment to reporters as slogans shouted outside in the
street by a cluster of his supporters wafted into the courtroom, who faced off
with a small group of anti-Netanyahu protesters.

Netanyahu’s
trial has been a polarising issue for Israelis. His loyal supporters bemoan it
as a left-wing witch-hunt that targeted a popular right-wing leader, while his
staunch critics hail it as the triumph of law over grave government corruption
that had plunged Israel into two years of political turmoil.

After
four inconclusive elections, Netanyahu’s former right-wing ally Naftali Bennett
in June unseated Israel’s longest-serving leader by forming a patchwork
coalition government of rightist, centrist, left-wing and Muslim Arab parties.

 

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