Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu
The announcement that the prime minister is to be indicted on corruption charges was expected [Sebastian Scheiner/Pool via Reuters]
Israel’s attorney general said on Thursday he intends to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in one case of bribe and two cases of fraud and breach of trust.
The long-awaited announcement marks the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister has been put on official notice of planned prosecution and deepens uncertainty over his prospects in a tight election race.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said in a statement that he intended to charge the Israeli leader pending a hearing, where Netanyahu would be given a chance to defend himself before charges are filed.
The required hearing will likely be after the April 9 election.
Netanyahu is facing a tough challenge from a centrist political alliance headed by a respected former military chief of staff, Benny Gantz.
Netanyahu, who is seeking a fourth consecutive term, denies any wrongdoing.
His right-wing Likud party calls the reported charges “political persecution”.
“Unilateral publication of the attorney general’s announcement just a month before the elections, without giving the prime minister an opportunity to refute these false accusations, is a blatant and unprecedented intervention in the elections,” Likud said in a statement.