Israeli court turns down Netanyahu’s request to delay corruption trial

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An Israeli court on Tuesday turned down a request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to postpone the opening of his corruption trial next week, a published ruling said.

The scheduled March 17 trial date looms as Netanyahu and his right-wing allies try to form a government in the face of fierce opposition, following last week’s general election, the third in under a year.

Lawyers for Netanyahu, the first Israeli premier to be indicted in office, had told the Jerusalem district court they had not received all the prosecution’s case material and asked for a 45-day delay.

“The forthcoming hearing is for the reading (of the charges) only,” said the court decision seen by AFP.

“A response to the charges by the accused is not required at this stage,” it said, adding there was therefore insufficient grounds to justify a delay.

In the March 2 election, Netanyahu’s Likud won the most votes by any one party, but even with its allies fell three seats short of the 61 needed for a majority in the parliament, or Knesset.

Netanyahu has been indicted on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust in separate cases including allegedly receiving improper gifts and offering a media mogul lucrative regulatory changes in exchange for positive news coverage.

The prime minister has denied the allegations.

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