21:14 GMT +311 December 2019
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    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he delivers a statement in Ramat Gan, Israel, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019.

    Israel's Attorney General Plans to Indict Netanyahu Pending Hearing - Reports

    © AP Photo / Sebastian Scheiner
    Middle East
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    Earlier, Israeli media reported that the prime minister was forced to cut his visit to Russia short and return home amid allegations of bribery and media manipulation.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed corruption charges against him in a television address Thursday night, calling the attorney general's announcement of possible charges against him so close to election time "outrageous" and accusing the opposition of carrying out an "unprecedented witch hunt."

    "The pressure of the left worked," Netanyahu said, adding that the attorney general's office's actions were lies and "blood libel" which have threatened democracy in Israel.

    The prime minister promised to squash all charges against him and prove his innocence.

    Earlier, Attorney General General Avichai Mendelblit said he intended to indict Netanyahu on counts of corruption, breach of trust and fraud, Israeli television reported on Thursday, quoting the Ministry of Justice.

    The attorney general promised to give Netanyahu the opportunity to argue against the indictment during pretrial hearings, which may be held before or after the upcoming legislative elections.

    Earlier, Mendelblit rejected a government request to postpone Netanyahu's indictment until after the April elections, where the prime minister is seeking a fourth consecutive term in office, saying it would be a "violation of the principle of equality before the law."

    Likud, Netanyahu's party, has denounced the case against the prime minister, calling the allegations against him "political persecution." A Netanyahu spokesman denounced the charges against him as "ridiculous" and "absurd."

    Israeli law enforcement have recommended an indictment against Netanyahu in three separate cases of illegal activity, including alleged favours for a telecommunications firm and newspaper in exchange for positive press coverage, as well the alleged receipt of luxury gifts from wealthy donors in exchange for financial or other favours.

    Israelis will go to the polls on April 9 to elect a new government. Netanyahu and the Likud Party have seen their comfortable lead in the polls slip since last week following the formation of an electoral alliance between the center-left Israel Resilience Party and the centrist Yesh Atid Party, with the alliance led by ex-IDF general Benny Gantz.

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