July 19 (UPI) -- The corruption trial of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will begin in January next year, a judge in the case ruled Sunday.
During the trial, witnesses will be called in three sessions a week, District Court Judge Rivkah Friedman Feldman announced in Jerusalem.
One of Netanyahu's lawyers, Yossi Segev, said "it will be hard for me to face a masked witness and see if he's telling the truth" because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The court said they all need to cope with the difficulties.
Netanyahu was not in the courtroom because a panel of judges, headed by Friedman-Feldman, Moshe Bar-Am and Oded Shaham ruled that in this second hearing only the accused was not required to attend.
In the first hearing on May 24, it was agreed that Netanyahu's lawyers would be given two months to discuss the trial's timeline.
The lawyers, who are headed by Amit Hadad, wanted more time to study the extensive material presented by the prosecutors, which they say contains errors.
The prosecution had wanted to start calling witnesses sooner.
Netanyahu was indicted on Jan. 28 though Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced on Nov. 23 Netanyahu would be indicted.
Netanyahu, 70, has been charged with bribery and public corruption. He has been accused in a media bribery scheme in which Walla owner Shaul Elovitch allegedly gave him positive coverage in exchange for the prime minister making government policies favoring Elovitch's Bezeq company for $510 million. This is known as Case 4,000.
In case 2,000, Netanyahu is accused of receiving gifts worth $200,000 from rich tycoons, mostly from Arnon Milchan, in exchange for help with business and personal legal initiatives.
Case 1,000 centers on gifts Netanyahu allegedly received from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.
Lead prosecutor Liat Ben Ari asked the court to hear evidence in Case 4,000.
Others on trial are Arnon Mozes, publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper; Elovitch, and Elovitch's wife, Iris Elovitch.
Netanyahu has claimed he is innocent.
The trial was delayed because of the election and the pandemic.
Netany is scheduled to transfer power to Blue and White's Benny Gantz in November 2021.