Netanyahu’s July hearing on possible indictment delayed to October

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gets a three-month hearing postponement on graft charges. (Reuters)
Updated 22 May 2019
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Netanyahu’s July hearing on possible indictment delayed to October

  • Netanyahu’s attorneys had requested a postponement until May 2020 to give them more time to examine the evidence in three corruption cases

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received on Wednesday a three-month delay, until October, for a hearing to argue against the attorney-general’s plan to indict him on graft charges.

Netanyahu’s attorneys had requested a postponement until May 2020 to give them more time to examine the evidence in three corruption cases, in which he denies wrongdoing, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s office said.

In a letter to one of Netanyahu’s lawyers that was released to the media, Mandelblit said he was shifting the dates for the hearing from July to Oct. 2-3. 

He said a longer delay to a year from now would have “harmed the vital public interest in deciding as soon as possible” whether to issue an indictment.

In office for the past decade, Netanyahu won a fifth term in April despite an announcement by Mandelblit in February that he intended to charge him with fraud and bribery, pending a hearing with the attorney-general.

Expecting legal challenges, they also have been advocating legislation that would annul any Supreme Court ruling rescinding immunity. 

Opposition legislators have described any attempt to shield Netanyahu or put limitations on Israel’s highest court as threats to Israeli democracy.

Set to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister in July, the right-wing leader has called the allegations a political witch-hunt and said he has no intention of resigning if charged, with a renewed public mandate to govern.

Netanyahu, who formally heads an interim administration, is trying to put together a new coalition with right-wing, ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox parties that would give him control of 65 of Parliament’s 120 seats.

Under law, he has until May 29 to inform President Reuven Rivlin that he has formed a new government. If he fails — which political commentators say is unlikely — Rivlin can ask another party leader to try.

With a new Parliament already sworn in, members of Netanyahu’s Likud party have said they will work toward granting him parliamentary immunity from prosecution while he serves as prime minister.

Postponing the hearing with Mandelblit could take some of the pressure off Netanyahu’s loyalists to rush immunity moves through parliament in the initial days of a new government.

In one of the investigations against him, Netanyahu is suspected of wrongfully receiving gifts, including champagne and cigars, from wealthy businessmen.

In a second case, he is alleged to have negotiated a deal with the owner of Israel’s best-selling daily newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, for better coverage in return for legislation that would slow the growth of a rival daily newspaper.


Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

Updated 16 June 2019
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Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

  • Russian-backed regime forces try to retake villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters
  • The clashes also left 26 pro-regime forces dead in the north of Hama province

 

BEIRUT: At least 10 civilians and 35 combatants, mostly pro-regime forces, were killed on Saturday in clashes and airstrikes that erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

The flare-up came as Russian-backed regime forces tried to retake two villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters earlier this month, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Since this morning, the Syrian regime and allied fighters have launched five failed attempts to regain control of Jibine and Tal Maleh in northwestern Hama province,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Syrian regime airstrikes killed nine opposition fighters, the war monitor said.

Ensuing clashes in the north of Hama province left 26 pro-regime forces dead, including eight who were killed in a mine explosion, the Observatory said.

In neighboring Idlib, regime airstrikes killed 10 civilians, including three children, the Observatory said.

The strikes hit the towns of Maaret Al-Numan and Al-Bara as well as the village of Al-Ftira, according to the war monitor.

The Idlib region of some 3 million people is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented, as opposition refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarized zone.

In January, the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian regime and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing nearly 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Turkey said on Friday that it did not accept Russia’s “excuse” that it had no ability to stop the Syrian regime’s continued bombardments in the last opposition bastion of Idlib.

“In Syria, who are the regime’s guarantors? Russia and Iran,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told state news agency Anadolu in a televised interview.

“Thus we do not accept the excuse that ‘We cannot make the regime listen to us’,” he said.

His comments came as Turkey disagreed with Russia earlier this week after Moscow claimed a new cease-fire had been secured in the province following weeks of regime bombardments — a claim that was denied by Ankara.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-regime protests.

Russia launched a military intervention in support of the regime in 2015, helping its forces reclaim large parts of the country from opposition fighters and militants.