A week before the High Court of Justice is set to hold a hearing over whether former president Moshe Katsav can stay out of prison until the end of the appeal process, the Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday released the protocols of the prosecution witnesses in his rape and sexual harassment case.

Thousands of pages of testimonies of friends, colleagues and family members of the various complainants were issued by Judges George Karra, Miriam Sokolov and Judith Shevach, with many names and details meticulously blacked-out, to protect the identity of the complainants.

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Other prosecution protocols, such as those of women that fell under the statute of limitations but were used to establish Katsav’s behavior, were not released. The former head of state was convicted in December of rape and sexual harassment and sentenced in March to seven years in prison.

On Wednesday, the High Court will be deciding whether the former president will be allowed to stay out of prison till his appeal is complete, or if he must be jailed in the interim and appear to the court hearings as a prisoner.

The court had already decided in February that it would publish the testimonies of the witnesses summoned by the prosecution, as well as those of the defense.

But the decision to release testimonies of one side of the story so close to the day of the appeal hearing aroused the ire of Katsav’s defense team.

Amnon Shomron, a spokesman for Katsav, said that “it is odd that a few days before the hearing on the appeal, the court decided to selectively publish only the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, and to continue to ban the testimonies of the defense witnesses.”

The public was already exposed to details of the complainants’ testimonies last December, parts of which were quoted when the district court justices read the verdict, but the documents released on Thursday added the voices of people close to the women who were victimized by Katsav.

“She told me ‘Do you remember that incident that I told you about in the office? He actually had sex with me there, and he really raped me,’” Yaron Armosa, a friend of “Aleph from the Tourism Ministry,” was quoted as saying.

“She was always very afraid of the people around Katsav,” Armosa added. “She described it as a mafia that’s always around him.” Armosa said that Aleph told him about Katsav’s behavior beginning in 1999.

“He would warm things up with her and compliment her, saying ‘you look very pretty,’ in a way that made her uncomfortable. After that, he began verbally harassing her, like saying ‘I think about you a lot at night,’ ‘I dream about you at night,’ ‘let’s be a couple,’” Armosa said.

“She told me that after that he began to touch her here and there.” He also said that Katsav would ask her to come to work in a button-down shirt, and then open more buttons.

Armosa said that Aleph was embarrassed to say what happened to her, and called her “very naive.”

The father of “Hey,” a victim who worked at Beit Hanassi when Katsav was president, also testified that his daughter was touched inappropriately.

“She said that the president would make comments and touch her, and she asked me what she could do,” Hey’s father said. “I had no doubt that she was very upset and didn’t know how to behave and was very confused.”

While it is hard to believe the court would deliberately time the release of these documents to sway public opinion and that of the Supreme Court justices against the defense, one can understand how Katsav’s team would feel that the decision was unjust, University of Haifa law professor Emanuel Gross said.

“The fact that the timing is so close to Katsav’s request to postpone his imprisonment could be coincidental, or raise suspicions,” he said.

“While the prosecution testimonies were published, those of the defense witnesses – which would seek to show why the complainants were not reliable and the president’s conduct should be understood in a different manner – were not yet released. That, however, does not mean the court won’t publish them,” Gross added.

“I can understand the defense attorney’s hard feelings. The timing of this publication is as they prepare to try convince the High Court of Justice that Katsav’s imprisonment should be postponed, in part because the complainants’ credibility should be doubted, and the district court should not have believed them. This could create the feeling that the court is being impartial,” he said.

“To me it doesn’t seem that the district court is trying to maim the defense’s efforts to convince the High Court of Justice. The timing of the publication could be pure chance. On the other hand, I can certainly understand the defense attorneys’ feeling of grievance.”

An official in the court system close to the affair said that the timing was coincidental, and explained that the only factor that kept the protocols from being published to this point in time was the meticulous editing work the thousands of pages underwent, which included repeated examinations to ensure that no details that could identify the complainants were left visible in the sea of documents. The official could not say why the prosecution’s witnesses protocols were first to be published.

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