The prosecution in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's corruption trial demanded that he be present for opening remarks in the evidentiary phase of the proceedings on Monday after his legal team requested for him to be absent from the session.
Netanyahu has been charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three corruption cases. He denies all charges against him, saying he is the victim of a witch hunt orchestrated by a hostile media, police and prosecutors.
The State Prosecution made the request to the Jerusalem District Court on Thursday. "The prosecution believes that there is a real reason for the defendant's presence during the opening remarks, which is the opening speech of the entire case for prosecution."
The prime minister's lawyers on Wednesday said they will seek for him not to be present during the testimony of former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua.
One of the charges alleges that Netanyahu promoted regulations worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the owner of the Bezeq telecom company, Shaul Elovitch, in exchange for positive coverage on its popular Walla news site.
"Since the prime minister had no connection with Yeshua, his presence does not contribute to the discussion in any way. It is an acceptable request in cases of similar scope."
However, the request added Netanyahu is not asking to skip the opening remarks in its entirety.
Head prosecutor Liat Ben Ari, who is set to give opening remarks, said it is the "duty" of the defendant to be present at trial hearings. "The presence of the defendant in his trial has public value as well as significance in terms of the public interest regarding a fair legal hearing and maintaining the appearance of justice and public trust"