Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's corruption trial began on Monday, as Israel's President Reuven Rivlin launched talks to determine which parties could form a new government following the general elections last month.
Netanyahu appeared in front of the Jerusalem District Court to hear opening arguments, in which the prosecution alleges the country’s longest-serving premier abused his position to illicitly accept -- and at times demand -- fine wines and expensive cigars from billionaire friends.
Lead prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari said that Netanyahu illegitimately abused the governmental power entrusted to him.
Ari also said Netanyahu granted favours to media officials motivated by his "desire to be re-elected" as prime minister.
The Israeli premier left the courtroom after receiving permission to leave by the judge before the prosecution called its first witness, Ilan Yeshua, the former chief executive of the Walla news.
Although his trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust officially began in May 2020, it is the first time prosecutors will call witnesses to the stand to put into context what Netanyanhu has been accused of. The hearings held so far in Jerusalem District Court have been brief and procedural.
Court sessions are now scheduled to take place three times a week, and with a roster of more than 300 witnesses for the prosecution, the trial could go on for months, if not years.
Netanyahu is the first incumbent Israeli leader to stand trial, and the charges against him have played a large role in the political turmoil that has been present in the country over the last two or three years.