Gag Order Leads Media to Shy Away From Katsav Rape Trial Coverage

Former president standing trial on charges of rape, indecent acts against female employees in his office.

Former president Moshe Katsav is scheduled to take the witness stand in his trial on charges of rape and indecent acts against female employees in his office on January 5. However, the public may not be allowed to hear his testimony as the trial, already in its third month, has been held behind closed doors and there is a gag order on testimony.

On Thursday, the prosecution concluded its arguments with the final witnesses on its behalf offering testimony before the court. But no one outside can say what is happening in the court of Judge George Karra.

During the past three months the prosecution brought a variety of witnesses to support the case against Katsav, including the plaintiffs themselves, their friends, family members, police, journalists and members of the prosecution.

In light of the gag order, the press has had to wait for those taking the stand to make statements. However, those involved seem reluctant to speak to the press, in part because of the vitriol the president and his supporters directed against the plaintiffs in the past.

This silence has had affected on the way the trial is being covered. If at the beginning reporters still waited outside the court for bit of information or for a response statement on something, the silence of all parties has resulted in the thinning of the ranks.

"The day will come when Katsav will be sitting in the cafeteria and no one will approach him," one reporter said.

On the opening day of the trial, September 1, a large array of media representatives arrived to report on opening statements. Katsav came with male members of his family - all dressed as lawyers, claiming to be part of the defense team so that they would be allowed in. After much arguing the prosecution agreed to let them attend the trial.

On that day everyone participating in the trial was smuggled in through the prisoners' entrance to preserve their privacy.

A petition filed at the High Court of Justice against the closed-doors policy, which the court argued aimed to preserve the privacy of the plaintiffs, failed.

Katsav's defense in January is expected to last at least a month. If nothing changes, the next time we hear something major on the case against the former president will be when the judge issues his ruling.