JERUSALEM: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu pleaded not guilty on Monday as his trial on corruption charges resumed in a Jerusalem courtroom just weeks before national elections in which he hopes to extend his 12-year rule. Netanyahu was indicted last year for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three separate cases.
In recent months, Israelis have held weekly protests calling on him to resign. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and has dismissed the charges against him as a “witch-hunt” and has refused to step down.
At Monday’s hearing, Netanyahu’s lawyers submitted a written response pleading not guilty. They then argued against the cases on procedural grounds, saying the attorney general had not properly approved the investigations in writing. After around 20 minutes, Netanyahu left the courtroom without explanation. His only remarks to the court were that he had nothing to add to his attorney’s response to the charges.
The hearing continued in his absence. The PM’s attorneys called on the court to postpone evidence hearings for several more months, claiming they had inadequate time to prepare. If granted, the hearings would take place after the upcoming elections.