The corruption trial for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resumed in Jerusalem on Monday, after being postponed last month.
According to the Times of Israel, Netanyahu and other defendants, Shaul and Iris Elovitch and Arnon Mozes arrived at the Jerusalem District Court amid heavy security.
In line with Netanyahu’s normal security arrangements, snipers were positioned on nearby roofs.
It is the second time Netanyahu attends a hearing of his trial in person.
He verbally confirmed the defense filed by his lawyers, who declined to add verbal arguments to their lengthy written response filed to the court last month.
Netanyahu, the first Israeli premier to be indicted in office, was charged last year over allegations that he accepted improper gifts and sought to trade regulatory favour with media moguls in exchange for positive coverage.
The combative 71-year-old prime minister, who has blasted the charges as “fabricated and ludicrous”, was at the Jerusalem court conferring with his legal team shortly before the hearing was due to start.
Repeatedly suggesting the charges against him have been trumped up, Netanyahu has taken direct aim at his hand-picked attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit.
At the Monday hearing, which was pushed back multiple times due to coronavirus restrictions, Netanyahu is compelled to deliver the defendant’s formal response to the allegations.
This marks the last pre-trial hearing with upcoming sessions focused on testimony and evidence.
The trial schedule may force Netanyahu to appear in court multiple times a week, as he campaigns ahead of Israel’s fourth election in less than two years to be held on March 23.
The charges against Netanyahu are divided into three separate cases.
The most serious — known as Case 4,000, in which the premier is accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust — centres on the allegation that he negotiated with Shaul Elovitch of the telecommunications giant Bezeq to secure positive coverage on his Walla! news site in exchange for policies benefiting Bezeq.
Elovitch and his wife were also indicted.
Case 2,000 concerns allegations Netanyahu sought a deal with the owner of the Yediot Aharonot newspaper that would have seen it give him more favourable coverage.
Case 1,000 involves allegations Netanyahu and his family received gifts, including luxury cigars, champagne and jewellery estimated to be worth more than 700,000 shekels ($213,000), from wealthy individuals, in exchange for financial or personal favours.
The prime minister denies wrongdoing.
Weekly protests against him have rumbled on for months, with demonstrators focusing on the graft allegations.
Others have protested against the government’s handling of the pandemic.
A crowd of protesters, at least one holding a banner emblazoned with the words “Crime Minister”, was outside the courtroom on Monday as Netanyahu’s motorcade arrived.
AFP/Times Of Isre