Israeli court tells Netanyahu he must appear at start of trial

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An Israeli court rejected on Wednesday a request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be absent from the opening of his corruption trial next week, saying he must abide by the practice of hearing the charges in person.

Netanyahu had asked Jerusalem District Court to be excused from his May 24 arraignment, deeming the event a formality and arguing that bringing his bodyguards would be a waste of public funds and a strain on coronavirus rules against congregations.

Some critics, however, believed Netanyahu was trying to reduce the optics of the first criminal prosecution of a sitting Israeli prime minister. Indicted for bribery, fraud and breach in three long-running cases, he denies wrongdoing.

The court said in response that it could accommodate the fifth-term Netanyahu’s security detail, though it declined his additional request to bring a larger legal retinue.

“It is incumbent upon the requester, as with all other defendants, to appear and have his say in court,” the three-judge panel said in its ruling.