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Benjamin Netanyahu: Israeli PM in court accused of fraud, breach of trust and bribery | World News

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A defiant Israeli prime minister has appeared in court for the first day of his corruption trial claiming that he is the victim of a conspiracy by media, police, prosecutors and judges to oust him.

In a televised statement made just before he entered the courtroom, Benjamin Netanyahu accused police and prosecutors of conspiring to “depose” him.

“The objective is to depose a strong, right-wing prime minister, and thus remove the nationalist camp from the leadership of the country for many years,” he said.

Benjamin Netanyahu
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He denies all the charges which include fraud, breach of trust and bribery

It was the opening day of a trial which could last years and marks a historic moment for Israel.

Mr Netanyahu is the first sitting Israeli leader ever to go on trial. He is accused of fraud and breach of trust in two cases and bribery, fraud and breach of trust in a third case. He denies all the charges.

The three cases against him – Case 1000, Case 2000 and Case 4000 – centre around his relationships with businessmen, media tycoons and a leading Israeli telecoms firm.

Since the charges were first brought against him by police investigators in December 2018, he has sought to avoid prosecution and the spectacle of appearing in the dock, calling the whole process an “attempted coup”.

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“They are not after the truth. They are after me,” he said. “[It is a] terror attack against Israeli democracy.”

When the charges were formally announced last year, Israel’s Attorney General said he brought them “with a heavy heart – but wholeheartedly”.

Supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wave Israeli flags and hold placards as they rally just before Netanyahu's corruption trial opens, outside the District Court in Jerusalem May 24, 2020. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
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Supporters of the PM wave Israeli flags and hold placards

“It is not an issue of left wing or right. Enforcing the law isn’t a matter of choice,” Avichai Mandelblit said.

An attempt by Mr Netanyahu to secure parliamentary immunity from prosecution last year failed. The trial was then delayed by two months in March because of coronavirus restrictions.

Last week he argued, unsuccessfully, that attending today was unnecessary, costly and would violate social distancing rules.

The trial has hung over him through three election campaigns, none of which he managed to win outright.

This month the country’s political deadlock was finally broken with the formation of a coalition government deal in which his political rival, Benny Gantz, will take over as Prime Minister in 18 months’ time.

Netanyahu gazes at his lawyer while waiting for proceedings to begin
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Netanyahu gazes at his lawyer while waiting for proceedings to begin at the Jerusalem District Court

By law, a sitting Prime Minister does not have to resign until a final conviction and all appeals have been exhausted and this trial could go on for years. There are 333 prosecution witnesses.

A clause in the coalition agreement means even after Mr Netanyahu hands over power to Mr Gantz in 18 months, he is still not required to resign while on trial because of his position as the “alternate” Prime Minister.

In the courtroom on the first day, Mr Netanyahu and his co-defendants listened to charges against them. Defendants can enter plea bargain at any point before verdict.

Speaking outside court, Anshel Pfeffer, author of Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu, told Sky News: “This is certainly a pivotal moment in his life.

“For four years, the investigation has been going on very slowly and finally we have reached the moment when he actually has to sit down in court,” Mr Pfeffer said.

“We saw a very telling moment as he went in. For 50 minutes it was the judges and the prosecutors who were in charge of the proceedings. This was a very different Netanyahu sitting on his own on the defendants’ bench doing what he was told. It was a metamorphosis for Netanyahu.”

As a renowned and extraordinary political survivor, many expect Mr Netanyahu, “the magician”, to conjure up some surprises.

He gave a statement - flanked by people wearing face masks - before entering court
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He gave a statement – flanked by people wearing face masks – before entering court

His lawyers complained to the judges that the investigation documents were not presented to them in time. The same complaint was made by the lawyers of the other defendants.

The three cases against Mr Netanyahu are:

Case 1000 – The Gifts Affair: Fraud & breach of trust. It is alleged that Mr Netanyahu received luxury goods including champagne and cigars totalling the equivalent of £162,000 from two businessmen over a continuous period amounting to a “supply channel”. It is alleged that the prime minister “acted for the benefit” of businessmen. He insists gifts were “tokens of friendship” and that he did not act inappropriately.

Case 2000 – The Media Affair: Fraud & breach of trust. It is alleged that Mr Netanyahu held several meetings with Arnon Mozes, controlling shareholder of the Yedioth Ahronoth media group. It is claimed that they discussed promoting their common interests: favourable coverage in return for restrictions of rival paper. Both men deny wrongdoing.

Case 4000 – The Bezeq Affair: Bribary, fraud & breach of trust. It is alleged that there was a “reciprocal arrangement” between Mr Netanyahu and Shaul Elovitch, controlling shareholder in Bezeq, a leading Israeli telecoms firm. It is alleged that the prime minister was involved in the promotion of regulatory decisions that favoured Bezeq.

Proceedings will continue on 19 July in a trial which could last several years.



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Kelly Preston: John Travolta’s wife dies from breast cancer aged 57 | Ents & Arts News

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John Travolta says his wife Kelly Preston has died from breast cancer.

The actor wrote on Instagram: “It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my beautiful wife Kelly has lost her two-year battle with breast cancer.

“She fought a courageous fight with the love and support of so many.”

The actress had chosen to keep her diagnosis private.

A family representative told US publication People that she died on Sunday morning and “had been undergoing medical treatment for some time, supported by her closest family and friends”.

Preston appeared alongside Tom Cruise and Arnold Schwarzenegger in hit films Jerry Maguire and Twins.

She also starred several times with her husband, most recently in mob flick Gotti in 2018.

The couple were married for 28 years and have two children, a 20-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old son.

Their first child Jett died in 2009, aged 16, after suffering a seizure on holiday in The Bahamas.

Preston’s last post on Instagram was in June, when she shared a Father’s Day picture of her family alongside the caption: “Happy Father’s Day to the best one I know, we love you.”

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Coronavirus: South Africa bans alcohol sales to free hospital beds for COVID-19 patients | World News

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South Africa’s president has announced a ban on alcohol sales to reduce the number of people admitted to hospital.

It is hoped that a fall in the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions would mean more beds available to treat COVID-19 patients.

A night curfew will also be reinstated to reduce traffic accidents, again freeing up hospital beds.

Wearing face masks has also become compulsory in public.



Coronavirus in South Africa, Jonathan Sparks







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It comes after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said health officials had warned that the number of hospital beds would soon not be enough, as coronavirus cases climb.

He said the country was expected to reach the peak of cases between the end of July and September.

South Africa has confirmed 276,242 cases of the virus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, and 4,079 deaths.









March: South Africa battles to implement social distancing

The country has reported daily increases of more than 10,000 confirmed cases for several days, with the latest daily figure adding nearly 13,500 to the total.

In March, South Africa began a strict lockdown in an effort to fight the virus but it has since eased many of those restrictions due to fears that continuing the lockdown would ruin the struggling economy.

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Coronavirus warning from Italy: Effects of COVID-19 could be worse than first thought | World News

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The long-term effects of COVID-19, even on people who suffered a mild infection, could be far worse than was originally anticipated, according to researchers and doctors in northern Italy.

Psychosis, insomnia, kidney disease, spinal infections, strokes, chronic tiredness and mobility issues are being identified in former coronavirus patients in Lombardy, the worst-affected region in the country.

The doctors warn that some victims may never recover from the illness and that all age groups are vulnerable.



Intensive care ward in hospital in Lombardy, Italy







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The virus is a systemic infection that affects all the organs of the body, not, as was previously thought, just a respiratory disease, they say.

Some people may find that their ability to properly work, to concentrate, and even to take part in physical activities will be severely impaired.



Italy: The journey of a coronavirus nation







Italy: The journey of a coronavirus nation

The physicians warn that people who do not consider themselves in a vulnerable group and aren’t concerned at contracting the disease could be putting themselves in danger of life-changing illnesses if they ignore the rules to keep safe.

They stress that the need for social distancing, hand washing, and masks is as important now as it ever was.

The warnings come amid growing concerns in northern Italy that a second wave of the virus could be imminent. Doctors in two of the main hospitals in the region have reported a handful of new cases of severely ill people with respiratory problems.

Dr Roberto Cosentini, head of emergencies at Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo
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Dr Roberto Cosentini is head of emergencies at Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo

Dr Roberto Cosentini, head of emergencies at Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo, oversaw the response to the virus that swept through this alpine province claiming the lives of at least 6,000 people.

He gave Sky News unprecedented access to the hospital’s emergency rooms in March when the first shocking effects of the virus were broadcast around the world, changing perceptions of the scale of the problem.

Now he is leading efforts to again send a warning across the globe that COVID-19 is a lethal killer that affects the whole body, and is not going away.



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“At first, initially, we thought it was a bad flu, then we thought it was a bad flu with a very bad pneumonia, it was the phase when you came here, but subsequently we discovered that it is a systemic illness with vessel damage in the whole body with renal involvement, cerebral involvement,” he told me in the now silent COVID-19 emergency room that was overwhelmed a few months ago.

“So we are seeing other acute manifestations of renal failure that requested dialysis or stroke, and then acute myocardial infarction, so a lot of complications or other manifestations of the virus.

“And also now we see a significant proportion of the population with chronic damage from the virus,” he said.

One of the few positives emerging from the pandemic that caused havoc to the health service here was the creation of a unique environment where doctors and experts in different fields found themselves working together for months, effectively learning new skills. That cooperation is helping the understanding of the virus.

Dr Emanuela Catenacci is a neurosurgeon at Cremona Hospital
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Dr Emanuela Catenacci is a neurosurgeon at Cremona Hospital

Dr Emanuela Catenacci is a neurosurgeon at Cremona Hospital and when we first met her in March she had been co-opted to work on the intensive care wards during the worst of the outbreak.

She is back on neurology, but crucially, whereas in the past she would have treated patients completely independent of other departments, now she can see the link. That link is COVID-19, and it’s a multi-organ killer.

“In our hospital now we have a practice with immunologists, who are checking these patients, especially the most severe, those with the most severe illnesses, and they are checking not only lungs, but all the systemic manifestations of COVID pathology,” she told me.

“The virus is a systemic infection, some of our apparatus organs have the biggest manifestation, such as lungs as we know, but also brain, skin, and sometimes we have vasculitis, so it’s not [just] high respiratory or low respiratory infection, it’s not finished [at] that,” she said.



Naples is deserted as coronvirus lockdown continues







Drone footage shows four locations in Italy where outside activity is not happening.

The Italian doctors’ findings in their patients mirror a recent study carried out at University College London.

Researchers identified serious neurological complications arising from COVID-19 including delirium, brain inflammation, stroke and nerve damage in 43 people aged 16 to 85.

Some of the patients had experienced no severe breathing problems at all, with the neurological disorder being the first and only sign that they had coronavirus.

An intensive testing and follow up analysis of all survivors has been launched in Bergamo. Teams of doctors examine those who have recovered on a constant basis, trying to track the changing properties of the virus.

Filippo Alcaini and his wife Caterina Belotti
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Filippo Alcaini, pictured with his wife Caterina Belotti, is one of the survivors

Filippo Alcaini, 65, is one of the survivors being tested.

He was intubated in February after becoming severely ill, but recovered. He has been COVID-19 free for four months but he still has problems breathing and has periods of severe exhaustion. He accepts his ongoing condition, but sends a clear warning to people to take care not to catch the virus under any circumstances.

“To those who don’t respect the rules, I wish they could have a week of what I felt, a week of feeling as bad as I have been,” he told me.

“Perhaps then they understand that they cannot underestimate the many warnings and mandatory rules we have been given.”

The doctors carrying out the follow-up and testing programme say they simply do not know enough about the virus to predict what is going to happen next.

Dr Gianluca Imeri
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Dr Gianluca Imeri warns that COVID-19 changes a patient’s body

“It’s something very different, that changes the body of the patient,” Dr Gianluca Imeri explained to me.

“We’ve also seen forms of asthma develop after coronavirus infections. We for sure know the damage of coronavirus is caused by inflammation, and asthma and other respiratory diseases are inflammatory diseases, and there are also some inflammatory diseases in our body that can be developed and triggered by coronavirus.

“Simple coronavirus pneumonia is something that patients will recover completely from, from a radiological point of view, but probably the biggest change is inflammation – I mean we have seen inflammation in all of their bodies, vascular systems, and respiratory systems, so we think we have to tackle inflammation in these patients even when they recover from the acute phase of the disease,” he said.

Cremona Hospital in Italy
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Cremona Hospital in Italy is quieter since the worst of the pandemic

So little is known of the virus that any long-term planning is guess work.

Doctors believe that even the youngest and mildest infected are at risk of their lives being changed forever, and it could take years to become apparent. Whole work forces could become less productive as a consequence.

The advice from Italy is simple: Don’t get infected.

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