Israeli Prime Minister indicted on multiple corruption charges

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an extended faction meeting of the right-wing bloc members at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israel’s attorney general on Thursday formally charged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a series of corruption cases, throwing the country’s paralyzed political system into further disarray and threatening the long-time leader’s grip on power.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit charged Netanyahu with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three different scandals. It is the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister has been charged with a crime. Mandelblit was set to issue a formal statement later Thursday.

Allegations against Netanyahu include suspicions he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of champagne and cigars from billionaire friends, offered to trade favors with a newspaper publisher and used his influence to help a wealthy telecom magnate in exchange for favorable coverage on a popular news site.

The indictment does not require Netanyahu to resign but is expected to raise pressure on him to step down.

Netanyahu has called the allegations part of a witch hunt, lashing out against the media, police, prosecutors and the justice system.

Netanyahu was scheduled to issue a statement later Thursday.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and said he is a victim of a witch hunt.

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