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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu begins corruption trial

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Netanyahu said his head was "held high" as he began the graft trial
Netanyahu said his head was "held high" as he began the graft trial   -   Copyright  RONEN ZVULUN/AFP
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Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday began a long-delayed corruption trial by saying he was "standing tall".

Netanyahu, who began a new term in office days ago, is Israel's first sitting leader to stand trial in the country's history.

The 70-year-old faces accusations of fraud, bribery, breach of trust, and accepting bribes in a series of corruption cases stemming from ties to wealthy friends.

Other charges he faces include accepting cigars, champagne and jewellery for favours from wealthy people and seeking to illegally trade favours for media coverage.

The prime minister denies all allegations.

"I'm here with a straight back and my head held high," Netanyahu told the Jerusalem courthouse on Sunday.

He also revived his claims that he is the victim of a witch-hunt by media and opponents to oust 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.

Netanyahu was required to appear in court a week after his new unity government was sworn in, which ended more than a year of political deadlock after three inconclusive elections.

He was due to stand trial in mid-March but the coronavirus pandemic postponed the case.