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Former president Moshe Katsav asked the Tel Aviv District Court yesterday for an open trial, with his attorneys arguing that the women accusing him of rape and other sexual offenses have already forfeited their privacy.

"Those whose dignity and privacy the complainant wants to protect ... have already forfeited their privacy, and have been repeatedly interviewed," Katsav's lawyers Avigdor Feldman, Zion Amir and Avraham Lavie said in response to the prosecution's request for a closed trial. "The interviews and publicity that took place openly and all over the place have critically damaged the accused," they said, calling for an open cross-examination while continuing to retain the gag order on the accusers' identity.

Daniel Sror, who represents the central complainant in the case - identified only as A. from the Tourism Ministry - said Katsav was trying to pressure the complainants.

"Mr. Katsav's response was expected," he said. "Its entire objective is, on the one hand, to exert pressure on the complainants, who are afraid of revealing their identity, and on the other, to continue with the attempt to conduct the trial through the media."

The latest development in the case comes as Katsav's attorneys were considering resigning over Judge George Karra's refusal to set a hearing over a scheduling conflict. Karra, who is presiding over the case, refused to set a hearing for them to show him their packed schedules. The three hoped to get Karra to change his decision scheduling four hearings a week.