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Netanyahu bribery indictment filed hours after PM drops immunity request

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu answer questions from members of the media in the Rose Garden at the White House on Monday in Washington, D.C. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI
President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu answer questions from members of the media in the Rose Garden at the White House on Monday in Washington, D.C. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Israel's attorney general filed an indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on bribery and other charges Tuesday just hours after the Israeli leader withdrew his request for immunity.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit charged Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in an indictment filed with the Jerusalem District Court.

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He announced the indictment in November, but had been prevented from filing it as Netanyahu sought immunity from prosecution.

The prime minister had sent the immunity request early this month to the Knesset, which was to convene Tuesday to vote on a committee that would debate whether the request should to be granted. But he withdrew the request Tuesday.

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"I will not allow my political opponents to use this matter to interfere with the historic move that I am leading," he said in a statement published on his personal Facebook page.

Israel's longest-serving prime minister was charged for receiving gifts as the prime minister, paying for favorable news coverage and implementing regulatory moves to benefit news outlets to spur positive news stories.

Netanyahu has denied all charges against him and said he requested immunity from prosecution until the term of the Knesset expires in order to prevent the government from harm.

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"At this fateful hour for the people of Israel, while I am in the U.S. on a historic mission to shape Israel's permanent borders and ensure our security for future generations, another Knesset show is expected to open in the immunity circus," Netanyahu said in the statement.

The filing of the indictment comes as he was in Washington to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of the White House's unveiling of its new Middle East peace plan.

His supporters denounced the attorney general's decision to file the indictment so quickly after the immunity request was withdrawn.

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"If anyone still had doubt that the prime minister is being pursued obsessively, this is more clear, sharp proof," a source close to Netanyahu told the Jerusalem Post. "Their eagerness to file the ridiculous indictment against the prime minister is so great that they cannot even wait a single day for the historic summit in Washington that is one of the most important in the history of the state."

Netanyahu said he will "shatter all the disproportionate claims" he is accused of in the charges.

"Since I was not given due process, because all the rules of Knesset work were trampled on a rough foot and since the results of the procedure were pre-dictated without proper discussion, I decided not to let this dirty game continue," he said in announcing his decision to rescind his request.

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Benny Gantz -- Netanyahu's chief political rival who will face him in the nation's third election in less than a year after neither politician was able to form a unity government -- responded to the withdrawal saying Netanyahu must go to trial and Israel must move forward.

"Israeli citizens have a clear choice: A prime minister who will work for them or a self-employed prime minister," Gantz said via Twitter. "No one can run a state and simultaneously run three serious criminal cases for bribery, fraud and breach of trust."

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