Israeli prosecutors have accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of making “illegitimate use” of his power to win favors from media moguls.
Netanyahu, who is facing long-standing charges of corruption appeared at the Jerusalem District Court on Monday for the opening of his trial which, along with an inconclusive election, has clouded his prospects of remaining in office.
He is charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in the first such trial of a sitting Israeli prime minister.
Delivering the prosecution’s opening statement, Liat Ben Ari accused Nethanyahu of seeking “improper benefits from owners of major media in Israel in order to advance his personal affairs”, adding that he saw favours as “currency”.
“The relationship between Netanyahu and the defendants became currency, something that could be traded,” the lead prosecutor said.
“This currency could distort a public servant’s judgment,” Ben-Ari added, further insisting that the regime’s top executive had misused “the great governmental power entrusted to him, among other things to demand and derive improper benefits from owners of major media in Israel in order to advance his personal affairs – including when he faced his desire to be re-elected.”
He has however denied all wrongdoing, describing the charges as a politically motivated witch-hunt.
The hearing comes as Israel’s president meets parliamentarians to ask whom they support to form the next government following last month’s election.
It failed to end the long period of political stalemate that has led to four elections in two years, leaving both Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc and the parties opposed to him remaining in power short of a majority.