Katsav Trial to Be Conducted Behind Closed Doors

Ex-presidents defense attorneys appeal court's decision to reject their request to resign from the case.

The judges presiding over the rape trial of former president Moshe Katsav decided on Tuesday that the trial will be held behind closed doors.

Judges George Kra, Miryam Sokolov and Yehudit Shevach ruled that after all the testimonies are heard in private, they will consider the option of releasing some of the information to the public, as long as it does not harm the complainants' privacy.

In their ruling, the judges wrote that "in light of the inherent concern over the privacy of the complainant, not to mention her ability to testify freely in court, it appears that the principle of a public trial must take a back seat to anything having to do with the testimony of the complainants."

In response to Katsav's assertion that the complainants have already been extensively interviewed in the media and therefore their testimony must be open to the public, the judges wrote "the fact that some of the complainants have been interviewed anonymously in the past with this or that media outlet, does not change our conclusion, mentioned above, seeing as their identity has remained secret, and their privacy was not harmed."

In agreement with the prosecution, the judges ruled that the testimonies of Katsav, the complainants and any other witnesses whose testimony could indicate the identity of the complainants would all be heard behind closed doors. These witnesses include the complainants' family members, friends, acquaintances, journalists, public figures, police investigators, attorneys and psychologists.

Katsav's lawyers appeal decision to defer their resignation

The saga surrounding the Katsav trial continued on Tuesday when the defendant's attorneys petitioned the Supreme Court in a bid to appeal the decision not to allow them to resign from the case at this time.

The defense attorneys argued that the court's refusal to allow them to resign is a violation of the defendant's rights, as they will not be able to provide him with an adequate defense. The lawyers initially asked to resign because they felt that they would not be able to adequately prepare given the stressful timetable assigned to the trial of four days per week.

The attorneys, Zion Amir, Avigdor Feldman and Avraham Lavi, emphasized that their objection to the timetable was not an attempt to "give the court the runaround" as Judge Kra had said, arguing that it was they themselves who had made the unusual suggestion that the trial be held two to three times a week.

"Holding hearings nearly every day critically harms [our ability to] defend the defendant, and indirectly harms our ability to defend other clients," the attorneys added.

"Trials in Israel get dragged on for long periods of time in Israel," they said, remarking that they have other hearings on their calendars which were scheduled long ago.