Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit (R).
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The High Court of Justice on Tuesday rejected an NGO’s petition to compel the state to hold Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-indictment hearing on likely bribery charges no later than July 10.
July 10 was the original date set by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit shortly after his February 28 announcement of a likely intent to indict Netanyahu for bribery.
However, when the prime minister – as well as other defendants in the Netanyahu cases – asked Mandelblit to postpone the hearing date, Mandelblit eventually agreed to push back the hearings of the other defendants to August 15 and for Netanyahu to October 2-3.
Netanyahu has maintained that even October 2-3 is far too soon and, ironically, may later petition the High Court to postpone the hearing by several more months.
The petition was filed by the NGO, the Movement for the Quality of Government for Israel, which argued that Netanyahu was getting unusually favored treatment by Mandelblit due to his status as prime minister.
It also warned that Netanyahu would use the delay to pass new legislation to insulate himself from prosecution.
The High Court said that the new elections had sidelined any new legislation and that, in any case, Mandelblit had discretion over procedural issues like when to schedule a hearing.
Meanwhile, Tuesday saw contradictory indications about whether Sara Netanyahu’s plea bargain might be in doubt.
An agreed-upon revised indictment was due to be filed on Monday with a sentencing hearing set for Sunday in the Prepared Foods Affair.
The prime minister’s wife was expected to confess to a reduced charge of intentionally exploiting another person’s error in place of the original – and more serious – charge of fraud, as well as a reduced fine of only NIS 55,000, down from the original charge of NIS 359,000.
However, the revised indictment was not filed due to surprise last minute objections by Sara Netanyahu – despite the fact that her lawyers had agreed to a deal on May 29.
Initially, the prosecution said it had given a short 24-hour extension to Sara for her to come around back to the deal.
But at press time the deal was not yet final.
Still, late Tuesday evening, a Justice Ministry spokeswoman – who had sounded ambiguous all day – finally said that the reversed indictment would likely be filed Wednesday morning.
While Sara Netanyahu has a history of seeming ready to agree to deals and then backing out, the May 29 deal was the first one confirmed by the prosecution.
This means that it would be far more significant if she walked away from the deal this time, though the ministry statement indicated that she would eventually re-agree to the deal. There were some reports that she would agree to the deal with some face-saving minor changes to the wording of the revised indictment.
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