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Netanyahu used favors as ‘currency’, prosecutor says as corruption trial starts

Published: Updated:

Israeli prosecutors accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of treating favors as “currency” on Monday at the opening of a corruption trial which, along with an inconclusive election, has clouded his prospects of remaining in office.

Netanyahu, who denies all wrongdoing in the three cases against him, came to Jerusalem District Court in a dark suit and black protective mask, conferring quietly with lawyers as his supporters and critics held raucous demonstrations outside.

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He left before the first witness was called to testify.

Meanwhile, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin began consulting with party heads on who might form the next coalition government - a toss-up after an inconclusive March 23 ballot gave neither the rightist Netanyahu nor his rivals a clear mandate.

“The relationship between Netanyahu and the defendants became currency, something that could be traded,” prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari said in presenting so-called Case 4000, concerning the premier’s alleged relationship with the owners of a news website.

“This currency could distort a public servant’s judgment.”

Netanyahu, who is charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in the first such trial of a sitting Israeli prime minister, has described himself as the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.

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