The corruption trial of Benjamin Netanyahu has begun, marking him the first Israeli prime minister to be indicted while in office.
Only a week after the start of his fifth round of premiership, Netanyahu faces trial on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust.
The court hearing was set to begin on Sunday before a three-judge panel.
The opening session was originally scheduled for March but it was postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The delay allowed Netanyahu to form a new coalition administration and secure his new term in office, thus allowing him to enter the court room from a position of power.
As the most serious case of charges, Netanyahu has been accused of offering regulatory favors for media executives worth around $500 million in return for securing positive press coverage that helped him win re-election twice.
In lesser charges of fraud and breach of trust, he is indicted for negotiating a deal with owner of Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth for better coverage. In return, the prime minister allegedly promoted legislation that would slow the growth of a rival newspaper.
Finally, Netanyahu and his wife have been charged with receiving expensive jewelry, cigars and champagne as gifts from a Hollywood producer and Israeli “citizen”, and an Australian billionaire businessman.
Bribery charges carry a sentence of up to 10 years in jail and a fine. Fraud and breach of trust carry a prison sentence of up to three years.
If convicted, Netanyahu can appeal to the supreme court. Should he lose the appeal, he will be required to leave office.
However, it could take several years before a verdict is handed down. Under the Israeli “justice” system, Netanyahu can also seek a plea deal rather than go through the trial process.