Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleaded not guilty on Monday to corruption charges at the resumption of his trial just weeks before national elections in which he hopes to extend his 12-year rule.
At Monday’s hearing, Netanyahu’s lawyers submitted a written response pleading ‘not guilty’. They then argued against the cases on procedural grounds, saying the attorney general had not properly approved the investigations in writing.
Netanyahu was indicted for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three separate cases in 2020.
Israelis have held protests in recent months calling for the resignation of Netanyahu over the charges and criticising his government’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
The Prime Minister is accused of accepting lavish gifts from wealthy friends and offering to grant favors to powerful media moguls in exchange for favorable coverage of him and his family.
The latest hearing was postponed last month due to lockdown restrictions on public gatherings.
Benjamin Netanyahu is the first Israeli leader to go on trial for corruption.
Israeli law requires Cabinet ministers to resign when charged with criminal offenses, but does not specifically address the case of a prime minister under indictment.
Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and has dismissed the charges against him as a “witch-hunt” orchestrated by biased law enforcement and media.
He has served as Israel’s prime minister since 2009, and in the past two years has managed to hang onto power through three tumultuous, deadlocked elections.