JERUSALEM, July 13 (JTA) — An Israeli opposition legislator is accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of attempting to influence the sentencing of a businessman who has been convicted of supplying Iran with chemical weapons materials. Labor Knesset member Nissim Zvilli charged Monday that Netanyahu had tried to influence the judge in the trial of Nahum Manbar. The charge of interfering in the judicial process came just days before an Israeli court was slated to sentence Nahum Manbar on Wednesday. The premier’s office denied that Netanyahu had had any contacts with Judge Amnon Strashnov, either during the trial or after the conviction was handed down last month. Commenting on the verdict at the time, Netanyahu said he hoped the court would impose a heavy sentence. He called Manbar a criminal who committed a terrible act, the likes of which he could not recall in the history of the state. Manbar’s attorney, Amnon Zichroni, in turn, accused Netanyahu of interfering with the judicial process by making such statements before sentencing was completed. Zvilli said this week that he had obtained information from sources “very close to the Manbar trial” that Netanyahu had tried to intervene in the legal process. Likud Knesset member Meir Sheetrit rebuked Zvilli for “having spread an unfounded rumor,” and other senior Likud officials questioned why Labor legislators were ready to endorse “every false rumor” to make political gains. Despite Netanyahu’s denial of any involvement in the case, several Knesset members, including coalition and opposition members, demanded a thorough investigation into the matter.
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