The Jerusalem District Court on Monday ordered an additional week delay in the public corruption trial of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu following two prior postponements.
The trial has been frozen since June 16 and will now reconvene on July 19 instead of the prior dates of July 5 or 12 for restarting witness testimony.
Basically, the court’s decision means that the case will not really go back into full gear until October because its summer recess runs July 21-September 1 and many of the September hearings will be canceled due to the fall Jewish holidays, though there may be a few.
Essentially, the additional weeks of delay are the product of a disagreement between the prosecution and the defense about how to handle new documents which will be added into the trial from the cell phone of former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua.
Previously, they had spent April, May and June presenting the court with extensive evidence from Yeshua’s cell phone regarding Case 4000, the “Bezeq-Walla Media Bribery Affair.”
The prosecution has alleged that Netanyahu used his powers to favor Bezeq in telecommunications policy in exchange for favorable media coverage from the Walla news site — both companies having been owned by co-defendant Shaul Elovitch.
However, as extensive as the previous evidence from Yeshua’s cell phone was about Case 4000, the prosecution had focused on text messages between the former Walla CEO and Netanyahu’s messengers or Shaul and Iris Elovitch and had not dug deeply into messages Yeshua sent to other politicians or third parties.
Until the court in mid-June ordered the prosecution to perform searches of these text messages and provide new documents to the defense, the state’s position was that such documents were not relevant to the case.
In contrast, the defense argued that such documents could show that Yeshua and Walla gave special treatment to many politicians who interacted directly with him as CEO, and not only to Netanyahu.
They hope this defense will disprove any bribery charge.
The prosecution’s argument is that this does not help Netanyahu because only he, out of all of the politicians, made a deal with Elovitch to systematically influence coverage at Walla for four years from 2013-2016 and used government powers to “pay” for this slanted coverage.
DEFENSE LAWYERS had accidentally been given some text messages between Yeshua and other politicians by the prosecution, but apparently there is far more material that they were not given, which the court has ruled is relevant.
The latest dispute between the defense and the prosecution is that the state is saying that, since it is now also seeing this material for the first time, not only should the new evidence benefit the defense, but also the prosecution.
In contrast, the defense has argued that the prosecution is the powerful body with control of the evidence.
The defense has said that if the prosecution did not use this evidence for its case against Netanyahu until now, it cannot now get a “second bite at the apple” simply because the defense has forced it to turn over new evidence helpful to the defense, which the prosecution previously withheld.
Resolution of whether the prosecution can use new anti-Netanyahu evidence it finds has been delayed to a later date, but the dispute itself simply delayed the prosecution in transferring documents to the defense by several weeks.
In addition, the searches through the documents have taken the prosecution longer than expected.
All of this means that Yeshua’s testimony will probably not finish before October.
Earlier in June, the prosecution said it had never claimed that it had researched all other politicians and power-brokers in Yeshua’s text messages, but that this was not relevant and could be a massive danger to the privacy of a huge number of people.
The prosecution said that there were around 150,000 lines of content which had not been transferred, implying that the defense just wanted a fishing expedition to embarrass large numbers of people who are not part of the case.
The court rejected these arguments at the time.