Prosecutors in the corruption trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked that all interactions between the bench and legal parties be recorded, following reports in the media that judges had said a conviction on a bribery charge in one of the cases would prove difficult.
The prosecutors filed their request on Sunday with the Jerusalem District Court, also asking to expedite Netanyahu’s long-running graft trial by adding hearing days next month.
The request to make sure all discussions between attorneys and judges occur in court and in the presence of stenographer followed a report last week by Channel 13 about remarks by judges in the so-called Case 4000, the heftiest of the three cases for which Netanyahu is on trial.
According to the report, the judges — in an unusual move — advised prosecutors to seek a compromise with the defense, as a conviction would prove hard to achieve on the bribery charge in that case. In Case 4000, Netanyahu faces bribery, fraud, and breach of trust charges in connection with the relations between the Bezeq telecom firm and the Communication Ministry under Netanyahu.
The conversation that Channel 13 reported, prosecutors told the court on Sunday, “was leaked in a biased and inaccurate manner and in a way meant to harm the proper conduct of the trial.”
They therefore asked that any further such talks only take place in the courtroom and that minutes be taken, “as long as there is not a legal justification for closed doors.”
“In light of the clear and significant public interest in fast tracking and resolving the trial, the evidence stage should be expedited, the questioning stage should be concluded, and any other instruction should be issued,” the prosecutors’ request reads.
The trial began in May 2020, and is predicted to stretch on for several more years unless a plea bargain can be reached.
Known also the Bezeq-Walla case, Case 4000 focuses on allegations that Netanyahu authorized regulatory decisions that financially benefited Bezeq telecommunications giant shareholder Shaul Elovitch to the tune of hundreds of millions of shekels. In return, Netanyahu allegedly received favorable media coverage from the Walla news site owned by Elovitch.
Netanyahu is also on trial for two additional counts of fraud and breach of trust — in Case 1000, which concerns gifts he allegedly inappropriately received from billionaire benefactors, and in Case 2000, in which he allegedly negotiated to obtain positive media coverage in a newspaper in exchange for curtailing its competitors.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing in the cases against him and claims that the charges were fabricated in a witch hunt led by the police and state prosecution.