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A new battle erupted yesterday over former President Moshe Katsav's appeal of his rape conviction, when the State Prosecutor's Office asked the Supreme Court to hold its hearings on the appeal behind closed doors.

The prosecution submitted the exceptional request to avoid harming the victims' privacy or revealing evidence whose publication is under a gag order. The Tel Aviv District Court heard the original case behind closed doors for the same reasons.

Katsav was sentenced in March to seven years in prison after being convicted of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and obstruction of justice. The Supreme Court will hear appeals of both his conviction and his sentence in August.

The former president's lawyers have requested that the appeal be open to the public. They argue that the time has come to bring everything about the case "out of the dark."

"This case deserves to be opened to the public so that the public can formulate its own positions on the evidence, its interpretation, its weight, and the correct, appropriate context," they wrote.