Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleaded not guilty to corruption charges during a pre-trial hearing on Monday at Jerusalem District Court.
The long awaited hearing, delayed several times this past year due to COVID lockdowns in Israel, took place amid protests against the prime minister and heavy security.
Netanyahu’s lawyers asked for a three-month delay of the trial which would push it until after the March 23 elections. Prosecutors say they have hundreds of witnesses and would be ready within three weeks.
The court is expected to announce a decision in the coming days.
Last year, Netanyahu was indicted for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three separate cases, accused of accepting gifts and offering favors to media for favorable coverage.
Hundreds of protestors dressed in prison outfits and carrying signs of “Crime Minister” rallied outside the courtroom against the premier.
Fellow Likud members sent their support to Netanyahu.
“We may not be with you physically, but we are with you from afar, offering our strength and support,” Transportation Minister Miri Regev wrote on social media. “Like many in the public, I believe in his innocence.”
Osnat Mark called it “another stage in the attempted political assassination called the Netanyahu cases.”
In his hearing in May, Netanyahu blasted the justice system and called the charges “fabricated.”
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.