Netanyahu Asks Court to Skip Opening of His Corruption Trial, Citing Coronavirus Restrictions

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu filed on Tuesday a request with the Jerusalem District Court for permission to be absent during the first session of his corruption trial, claiming that his and his bodyguards’ presence would violate Health Ministry coronavirus instructions.

– Bibi swears in his colossal coalition and readies for a courtroom showdown

Bibi swears in his colossal coalition and readies for a courtroom showdown Haaretz

Netanyahu also said his presence at a technical proceeding was unnecessary and would “cost the public a fortune.”

>> Netanyahu's trial: Everything you need to know

Charges against the prime minister will be formally laid out in the first session, scheduled for Sunday at the Jerusalem District Court. 

The prime minister filed the request a day after sending it to the State Prosecutor’s Office for an opinion. The State Prosecutor’s Office rejected the request, saying that a suspect's presence at their own hearing bears importance in showing equality of all suspects before the law.

Its statement also noted that the first session of a hearing is not a "technicality," but rather has great significance for the rest of the trial. Furthermore, it said, its decision was specifically about the first session and future requests would be considered. 

Netanyahu’s lawyers, Amit Hadad and Micha Fettman, said the response by the State Prosecutor’s Office was “clearly unfounded” and that under certain circumstances the law allows defendants to be absent for large portions of court proceedings. The attorneys said in a statement that what motivated the response was a desire to assist the media in “presenting the image of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the dock as a continuation of the ‘Anyone but Bibi’ campaign.”