JERUSALEM, Israel – A Jerusalem district court announced on Sunday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial will be postponed for more than two months due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Netanyahu was scheduled to appear before the court on Tuesday to face criminal charges related to fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes in connection to a serious of corruption cases. Netanyahu’s hearing is now scheduled for May 24.
“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 said.
The announcement came after the Health Ministry on Saturday rolled out a series of new restrictions, including banning all groups of more than 10 and shuttering all restaurants and public spaces.
Shortly after this announcement, Israel’s Justice Minister Amir Ohana declared a “state of emergency” in Israel’s court system as part of the national effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. He warned that continuing business as usual would be a major public health risk.
Israel has 250 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Monday morning and tens of thousands of people are in isolation.
Netanyahu faces seven counts of fraud, breach of trust, and bribery in three separate cases. The cases center on allegations that Netanyahu gave special favors to media companies and wealthy friends in exchange for gifts and positive press.
He is the first sitting Israeli prime minister to be charged with criminal offenses.
Netanyahu denies all accusations of wrongdoing and claims the trial is a witch hunt.
He asked for immunity from prosecution but withdrew his request in January after it became clear that not enough parliament members supported the request.