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The sentencing hearings in the rape and sexual assault trial of former president Moshe Katsav will take place behind closed doors, the judges in his trial decided yesterday. Judges George Karra, Miriam Sokolov and Judith Shevach said they will allow the publication of large sections of the testimonies in the trial after a sentence has been reached, including that of Katsav himself, but not the testimonies of his victims. The decision was the court's response to requests by the media to release for publication as many parts of the Katsav trial minutes as possible.

The judges also said they found no reason to discriminate between women whose complaints were included in the indictment and those whose complaints were left out because of obsolescence. "Both are complainants of sexual offenses and could be hurt or suffer damage to their privacy by the publication of their identity as complainants in this case," the judges wrote.

They also stressed that the court is "committed to protect complainants in sexual offense cases, to encourage them to approach law enforcement authorities and register their complaints. The court is also committed to allowing complainants to testify freely and retain their privacy, not only throughout the trial but also after its conclusion. Allowing the publication of a complainant's testimony only because of the public interest in a high-ranking defendant may in the future deter potential complainants from lodging a complaint against public officials."

The panel decided to release, after the sentencing, testimonies supportive of the complainants, including some by family members, acquaintances and journalists, as well as testimonies by policemen, prosecutors and other officials - but not before any sections infringing on the complainants' privacy are redacted.

As for the former president's testimony, the judges wrote they considered not releasing it at all, since publishing it without publishing the testimonies of the victims could create a one-sided picture of the events, biased in Katsav's favor. "We have eventually decided to allow the publication of the testimony, after redacting sections that could infringe upon the complainants' privacy, and expose their identities, since the accused denies doing anything at all to the complainants, and the distortion of the greater picture is not sufficient to censor the testimony as a whole."