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The Supreme Court's decision yesterday to postpone former President Moshe Katsav's entering prison yesterday produced protests from women's organizations and the plaintiffs in Katsav's trial. His associates commended the court's ruling.

"The court sent a bad message to sexual assault victims," said Dorit Abramovich, who led the campaign by activists and feminist groups to indict Katsav. "The justice system cannot be counted on to do justice and put the serial sex offender behind bars," she said.

Abramovich noted that he District Court convicted Katsav of serial sex offenses and the Supreme Court should have jailed him immediately, "precisely because of his abuse of power as minister and president - and not distinguish between him and any other sex offender."

At rape crisis centers there was disappointment with the court's decision. They issued a statement that the decision "to go easy on convicted rapist "conveys a grim message." The statement said Katsav should be treated with appropriate severity due to his former eminent position. Daniel Srur, attorney of the main plaintiff in Katsav's trial, said the Supreme Court's decision was "surprising in view of the District Court's unanimous, unequivocal conviction of Katsav" and in view of the deep-rooted practice "not to delay implementing a prolonged prison sentence."

However, he said, it was merely a delay. "We are convinced that after the appeal process, the Supreme Court will approve Katsav's conviction."

Yaron Armoza, a friend of the plaintiff, said, "It's sad that a man who was president is treated differently from other people. The District Court ruled the man is a serial sex offender, and that's how he should be treated. Now his people are getting another chance to portray him as a victim, while we should be thinking about his victims and what they've been through."

Katsav's attorney, Zion Amir, commended the court for "making a purely legal decision clean of any ulterior considerations."

The former president's brother, Lior Katsav, said: "My brother reacted with excitement and expectation that this is the first step toward clarifying the truth. The whole family feels relieved."