Netanyahu’s trial to go forward despite coronavirus lockdown - analysis

©The Jerusalem Post

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu with members of his legal team at the beginning of his corruption trial at the Jerusalem District Court in May. (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

In March-April, almost all of the courts closed besides the High Court of Justice, with a small number of hearings happening by videoconference.
This led to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial being delayed for over two months, from March 17 to May 24.
However, on Tuesday, the court spokesman’s office announced that the judiciary will not shut down during the impending national lockdown the way it mostly shut down during the March-April lockdown.
According to a court statement, the current relatively new corona law does not automatically permit the government to shut down the courts, and the decision has been left to the judiciary itself.
Even as the courts will remain open, the statement said that judges will be lenient about accepting requests from lawyers to delay hearings during the lockdown.
In addition, the statement highlighted that the courts will mostly close between October 2 and 10 due to the court’s standard fall Sukkot recess, but unrelated to the corona national lockdown.
The bottom line is that ongoing motions in Netanyahu’s trial will continue to move forward, the final pretrial hearing in December and the hearing of witnesses in January will go forward, no matter what the state of the nation is – even if a third lockdown comes along.
cnxps.cmd.push(function () { cnxps({ playerId: '36af7c51-0caf-4741-9824-2c941fc6c17b' }).render('4c4d856e0e6f4e3d808bbc1715e132f6'); });
Some slammed Netanyahu for the March-April national lockdown, saying it was all about delaying or eliminating his trial.
But at that time, there was no legal structure in place to balance competing national priorities, the justice minister was Likud loyalist Amir Ohana, and the courts were somewhat cowed by the prospect of a corona wave which some said could imminently kill 10,000 Israelis or even far more.
This round of lockdown is different.
As the court noted, there is now a stronger legal structure to guarantee that the courts can make their own decision about how much to open or close.
Current Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn has made his defining mission defending judicial independence.
Finally, the courts themselves have regained their swagger and have a more nuanced view of how to balance risks while remaining primarily open.
This means nothing about whether Netanyahu will be convicted or acquitted. But it does remove a national lockdown from the list of weapons that could be used to prevent the trial from continuing.
All rights reserved © The Jerusalem Post 1995 - 2020Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc.