The judges in former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's corruption trial on Wednesday rejected a request by his attorneys to delay proceedings until after the Jewish High Holidays in September, but did eventually agree to a three-week postponement.
Netanyahu’s lawyers claimed the lengthy original postponement would allow them enough time to study prosecution material in Case 4000.
But the judges ruled that the trial will continue as scheduled and even extended the deadline for prosecutors to hand over the material to the defense lawyers until July 20.
After a subsequent appeal by the defense teams, the judges agreed to postpone for three weeks and the next session in the trial will take place on July 5.
The material is believed to be key in Case 4000, in which Netanyahu is accused of conspiring with Shaul Elovitch, who at the time owned both the Bezeq telecom giant and the Walla! news website, to allegedly provide the former prime minister with positive news coverage in return for favorable legislation that would have been very profitable for Elovitch.
Elovitch's lawyers slammed the decision, calling it a "fatal blow" to their defense.
Netanyahu and Elovitch’s legal teams had argued their request was not an attempt to delay proceedings, but rather was a "direct result of information being concealed by the prosecution.”
The defendants’ lawyers said that the materials they were set to receive from the prosecution would most likely have an impact on any future testimonies in the trial - both from Walla! employees and from Avi Berger, who was the director general of the Communications Ministry before being laid off by Netanyahu himself in 2015.
The request to postpone the trial came after the judges presiding over Case 4000 last week ordered the prosecution to provide the defense with additional investigative materials, noting that the current situation was "in need of correction."
The judges also noted that they were aware that the significant amount of material to be transferred to the defense, but added that "we see no escape from issuing this order.”
Yeshua was set to give further testimony on Wednesday, his 26th appearance since the evidentiary stage of Netanyahu's corruption trial began in early May.
Throughout the trial Yeshua claimed he was placed under excessive and unreasonable pressure from Netanyahu and his family, which was met due to Elovich's desire to receive regulatory benefits.
The defense for its part argued that Walla! was a site hostile to Netanyahu, and that the former prime minister was only one politician out of many to receive positive headlines on the site after he exerted pressure on it.
"After trying to hide hundreds of thousands of pieces of information from the defense, the prosecution is asking for a period of at least two weeks to prepare the materials and transfer them to the defense,” the defense team said on Netanyahu’s behalf.
“The defense requests the same amount of time to study the new materials and prepare for cross-examination as the State Prosecutor's Office had.”
First published: 12:23, 06.16.21