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The verdict in former President Moshe Katsav's sex crimes trial will be handed down on December 28, the Tel Aviv District Court announced yesterday.

Katsav's lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, told Haaretz that his client received the news with a sigh of relief. "He believes the court will find him innocent," Feldman said, explaining that the length of time that has elapsed since the hearings in June ended indicates the judges are delving thoroughly into the evidence, "and all delving into the evidence works in his favor."

Katsav's brother, Lior, said the family was hoping and praying for his acquittal.

Katsav is charged with sexual offenses against three different women, two of whom worked under him at the President's Residence; the third worked for him at the Tourism Ministry when he was tourism minister.

The alleged offenses include two counts of rape, forcible indecent assault and sexual harassment.

The former president is also charged with intimidating a witness and obstructing justice.

The trial began in September 2009, with Katsav himself taking the stand in January 2010. The court finished hearing the evidence in April and the parties delivered their summations in June. Since then, everyone has been waiting for the verdict.

The trial was one of the most secretive ever conducted in Israel. Not only was it closed in its entirety to the media, but after initially promising to release transcripts of all testimony that did not infringe on the complainants' privacy, the court ended up releasing the testimony of exactly one of the dozenes of witnesses - attorney Raz Nizri, an aide to former attorney general Menachem Mazuz - along with both sides' opening statements and a few excerpts from their summations.