JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel’s attorney general has rebuffed a request from lawyers for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to postpone the next stage in the corruption investigation targeting him.
Avichai Mandelblit told the Netanyahu legal team on Sunday that a pre-indictment hearing cannot be delayed and must take place before July 10.
In February, Mandelblit announced his intention to indict Netanyahu on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust for allegedly trading lucrative official favours for gifts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars – the first time a sitting prime minister would face criminal charges.
Normally the prosecution would have turned over the evidence to defence lawyers soon after the announcement, but at Netanyahu’s request the material was not handed over before the April 9 election out of fears that it would leak and have an effect on the balloting.
Netanyahu’s attorneys said they have not picked up the material since because they have not yet been paid, and will need additional time, which the attorney general has said he will not grant, Haaretz reported.
Mandelblit said he will make a decision based on the evidence at hand if the hearing is not scheduled.
Netanyahu has denied all the charges and called the investigations a “witch hunt” by the political left and the media.
There are rumours that with Netanyahu’s victory in the election, members of his new government coalition would advance legislation that would grant him and all lawmakers immunity from prosecution while they are in office.