A hearing at the Supreme Court on whether to further delay former president Moshe Katsav's prison sentence began on Wednesday.

Katsav’s lawyer Avigdor Feldman asked Judge Yoram Danziger to delay Katsav's sentence until the appeals process has ended.

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Danziger will decide whether Katsav will enter prison before the appeal or not. He is not expected to announce his decision immediately.

In the hearing, which is not behind closed doors, the judge will have to decide whether the chances of a successful appeal are good enough to warrant Katsav remaining free, or whether to order him jailed and have him attend the appeal hearings as a ward of the Prisons Service.

"I personally do not like symbols and ceremonies, but would hate to think that the president of the state would enter prison - with all whole symbolism of the event - and undergo the entire humiliation ceremony, only to be acquitted later on. Such a possibility exists," Feldman argued.

"His dignity is our dignity."

Aryeh Peter, the State Attorney Office's representative at the hearing said that "legally, this is a regular case. The defendant was charged with a felony."

"Katsav should start serving his sentence before the appeal begins," Peter added. "It is in the public interest for Katsav to go to jail right away."

Katsav's laywers filed an appeal to the Supreme Court last week over the lower court’s decisions to convict him of rape and sexual harassment, and then sentence him to seven years in prison.

In their request to have the sentence postponed, Katsav’s defense team, made up of attorneys Feldman, Zion Amir, Avraham Levi and Mickey Hova, wrote: “It would be far better that this case, which went through so many and such extreme tribulations and with all of its uniqueness, be heard in this honorable court, with the appellant arriving as a free man and not brought from the prison to the Supreme Court in shackles.”


The lawyers also asked for special consideration in light of Katsav’s former status, who as president represented the state in Israel and around the world. The defense team warned of the shame that would fall on the country and the court if Katsav was imprisoned and it later turned out he was innocent.

The request preempted the State Attorney’s Office anticipated response that the appeal had no chance, by quoting extensively from the state’s own arguments before the Supreme Court, in 2007, arguing in favor of reaching a plea bargain with Katsav because of shaky evidence, taking it as a sign that the chances of a successful appeal were actually good.

The former president's prison sentence was already delayed once. He was expected to enter prison on Sunday, but Danizger ruled that Katsav can remain free until a final decision is made.

Ron Friedman contributed to this report.

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