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PRE-TRIAL hearings on allegations of corruption against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began today, which could lead to 10 years’ imprisonment for the leader.
Evidence against the claims, initially made three years ago, was brought forward by the right-wing leader’s defence team on the first of a four-day hearing before the country’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
Mr Netanyahu is accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three instances. They relate to gifts he had received and favours promised in exchange for positive media coverage.
His lawyers argued yesterday that any potential charges should be scrapped, or at the very least reduced.
Mr Netanyahu reportedly granted regulatory favours to Israel’s largest telecom company Bezeq in return for favourable coverage on the Walla news site — controlled by the company’s former chairman.
It is also claimed that he and his wife received gifts from US and Australian stars and billionaires in return for political favours.
Mr Netanyahu also allegedly had a deal with the owner of Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth for favourable coverage in return for legislation slowing the growth of rival paper Israel Hayom.
Mr Mandelblit is expected to make his verdict on whether or not to indict Mr Netanyahu by the end of December. If indicted, it could take months for the PM to be put on trial unless a plea deal is given.
Under Israeli law Mr Netanyahu could serve as Prime Minister while legal proceedings and appeals are ongoing. But, if convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine for the bribery charges alone.
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