JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial will start on March 17, two weeks after Israel holds its third national election in less than a year, the Justice Ministry said on Tuesday.
Netanyahu, the first sitting Israeli prime minister to be charged with a crime, has denied any wrongdoing in the three corruption cases against him.
In addition to his legal battle, Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, is fighting for his political life in a March 2 election, after inconclusive ballots in April and September.
In a statement, the ministry said Netanyahu, in power for the past decade and Israel’s longest-serving leader, will be required to attend the Jerusalem District Court for the first session to hear an indictment against him. A three-judge panel will hear the case.
Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in three corruption cases. Charges, which were formally filed with the court three weeks ago, include bribery, breach of trust and fraud.
Netanyahu, 70, is accused of wrongfully accepting $264,000 worth of gifts, which prosecutors said included cigars and champagne, from tycoons, and of dispensing regulatory favours in alleged bids for improved coverage by a popular news website. He could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of bribery and a maximum three-year term for fraud and breach of trust.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Rami Ayyub and Alex Richardson)