Jerusalem: The opening of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial in three corruption cases has been delayed by over two months due to new restrictions on the country’s courts as part of the measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the Jerusalem District Court announced on Sunday. Also Read - 'Spoke to My Friend Narendra Modi', Says Benjamin Netanyahu As Israel's Supplies Hit By Coronavirus
The move comes just two days before the scheduled March 17 hearing, which according to the Courts Administration of Israel has now been postponed until May 24, reports The Times of Israel. Also Read - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Calls For Direct PM Election Amidst Deadlock
“In light of developments regarding the spread of the coronavirus, and taking into account the latest guidelines given and the declaration of a state of emergency in the courts, we have decided to cancel the scheduled hearing,” the three judges presiding over the case wrote in their announcement.
Netanyahu faces seven counts of three criminal charges. He has, however, denied the charges and claims he was a victim of an attempted “political coup” involving the opposition, media, police and state prosecutors.
Netanyahu in November 2019 became Israel’s first sitting prime minister with charges against him. The charges were only filed officially in January.
On Saturday night, Justice Minister Amir Ohana declared a 24-hour “state of emergency” in Israel’s court system, “as part of the national effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus”.
The decision means that courts can only sit for urgent hearings on arrest and remand orders, administrative detention orders, offences under legislation “relating to the special emergency” and certain interim relief in civil matters.
The Times of Israel quoted a statement from Ohana’s office which said the decision was made based on Health Ministry recommendations and that “there is a real fear of serious harm to public health” if the court system continued as normal.
The number of Israelis diagnosed with COVID-19 rose to 200 Sunday morning. The Health Ministry said two of the sick remained in serious condition, with 11 in moderate condition and the rest suffering light symptoms only.
Meanwhile, nearly 40,000 Israelis were in home quarantine for fear of exposure to the virus, including nearly 1,000 doctors, more than 600 nurses, 170 paramedics, and 80 pharmacists, according to Health Ministry figures. Health officials have conducted over 6,800 coronavirus tests nationwide so far.