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Israel: Netanyahu corruption trial to intensify in January | Israel News

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial will resume in January with witnesses and evidence given three times a week, a Jerusalem court ruled on Sunday.

It was not immediately clear if Netanyahu will be required to be present at each hearing, although some Israeli media reported he would.

The grueling judicial schedule will keep Netanyahu’s legal woes firmly in the national consciousness and conversation, and continue to raise questions over whether he can keep serving while simultaneously standing trial.

The court’s decision came after the trial’s second hearing, a procedural deliberation that set the pace for the remainder of the proceedings.

Netanyahu’s trial resumed on Sunday as the long-serving leader faces mounting discontent over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 

His lawyer asked for a delay in the proceedings because of the virus, saying mask-wearing impeded his job of questioning witnesses.

At the first hearing in May, just before appearing in front of the judges, Netanyahu took to a podium inside the courthouse and flanked by his party members bashed the country’s legal institutions in an angry tirade. The prime minister did not appear at Sundays hearing.

Although his base remains firmly behind him, only a smattering of supporters turned up outside the court to voice their backing for the prime minister, far fewer than the throngs who converged at the trial’s opening.

‘Media-orchestrated witch-hunt’

Netanyahu, 70, is charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals in which he is alleged to have received lavish gifts from billionaire friends and exchanged regulatory favours with media moguls for more agreeable coverage of himself and his family.

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing, painting the accusations as a media-orchestrated witch-hunt pursued by a biased law enforcement system.

Bribery charges carry a sentence of up to 10 years in jail, while fraud and breach of trust carry a prison sentence of up to three years.

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JULY 14: Thousands of Israeli light their phone during a rally near the Israeli Prime Minister's residence on July 14, 2020 in Jerusalem, Israel. Protesters demand Israeli Prime Mi

The anti-government anger in Israel has sparked protests over the past few weeks that saw violent clashes with police [Getty Images]

Widespread anger

Netanyahu faces widespread anger over his government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. While the country appeared to have tamped down a first wave of infections, a hasty reopening sent infections soaring.

But Netanyahu and his emergency government – formed with the goal of dealing with the crisis – appeared to neglect the numbers and moved forward with other policy priorities and its reopening plans.

It has since paused them and even reimposed restrictions, including a weekend-only lockdown set to begin later this week.

Netanyahu’s government has been criticised for its response to the new wave, which has seen daily cases rise to nearly 2,000. It has been slammed for its handling of the economic fallout of the crisis.

The anger has sparked protests over the past few weeks that have culminated in violent clashes with police.

On Saturday, police used water cannon to disperse demonstrators around Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence.

In Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial hub, thousands gathered to demand better state aid to businesses hurt in the health crisis.

While Israel has pledged billions of dollars worth of aid, it has not all been doled out to those in need.

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Top New York state lawmaker says Cuomo ‘must resign’ | Politics News

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Pressure is mounting on Governor Andrew Cuomo to step down amid allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is facing increased pressure to step down, after he was accused by several women of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviour.

In a statement shared by local media on Sunday, New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said accounts of alleged wrongdoing against Cuomo are “drawing away from the business of government”.

“New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it. We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state, Governor Cuomo must resign,” she said.

Several women have come forward in recent weeks to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment and misconduct, including inappropriate comments of a sexual nature, as well as unwanted sexual advances.

Cuomo, who drew national attention for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, has also been criticised after US media outlets reported that his top aides obscured the true number of people killed by the coronavirus in the state’s nursing homes.

“We have allegations about sexual harassment, a toxic work environment, the loss of credibility surrounding the COVID-19 nursing home data and questions about the construction of a major infrastructure project,” Stewart-Cousins said in her statement.

Cuomo has also faced criticism after US media reported his aides obscured the true number of coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes in New York state [File: Yuki Iwamura/AP Photo]

State Assembly Speaker Carl E Heastie also spoke out on Sunday about the allegations, which he described as “deeply disturbing” and having “no place whatsoever in government, the workplace or anywhere else”.

“I too share the sentiment of Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins regarding the Governor’s ability to continue to lead this state. We have many challenges to address, and I think it is time for the Governor to seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York,” Heastie said in a statement, as reported by local media.

While Cuomo at first denied any wrongdoing, he said on February 28 that he “never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm”.

“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended,” he said in a statement at that time.

New York is still in the midst of this pandemic… We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state, Governor Cuomo must resign

Andrea Stewart-Cousins, New York State Senate Majority Leader

Last week, he apologised and said he would cooperate with an investigation into his conduct, but would not resign.

He reiterated that position on Sunday, telling reporters during a conference call that it would be “anti-democratic” for him to step down.

“They don’t override the people’s will, they don’t get to override elections,” said Cuomo, when asked about members of his own party calling for his resignation. “I was elected by the people of New York state. I wasn’t elected by politicians.”



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