(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The judges presiding over the trial of Moshe Katsav on Sunday afternoon rejected the resignation of the former president's lawyers, and reaffirmed their demand to hold hearings four days a week.
The panel of three Tel Aviv District Court judges headed by Justice George Kara explained that had they approved the petition, the hearings would have been "unreasonably" postponed.
"I do not intend to drag out this trial," said Kara.
Katsav has been indicted on two rape charges and for other alleged sexual crimes against women who worked for him while he held high office in the cabinet and during his presidency.
Last Monday, Katsav's lawyers, Zion Amir, Avigdor Feldman and Avraham Lavie accused the judges presiding over his trial of thinking they were in an "arm-wrestling match" with the defense, and announced they were resigning from the case.
The lawyers also said they could not accept the court's demand to hold hearings four days a week beginning September 1 and charged that the court had spoken insultingly to them and that it had been unwilling even to hear their arguments on this issue.
"It seems the court believes, even before the trial has begun, that it's an arm-wrestling match between itself and the lawyers," Katsav's attorneys had charged.
They pointed out that they had originally objected to holding the trial four days a week at the first hearing on May 14.
"When we explained that this schedule makes it impossible to prepare the case properly both with regard to the opening date and each individual hearing, the court ruled, in insulting language, 'I will not allow this trial to be dragged out,'" they said.
On May 26, the lawyers added, they had asked the court to hold a special hearing to discuss the timetable in detail. However, the judges rejected the request on the very same day without even asking for the prosecution's opinion.
"The court's decision was a way of saying 'we don't want to see you,'" Katsav's lawyers added.
They said it was never their intention to drag out the trial.
"We want to provide a proper and worthy defense to the defendant and meet our professional obligations to other clients," they wrote. "No one wants a quicker end to this affair more than the man we represent."
Lavie told The Jerusalem Post last week he could not adhere to the schedule of hearings prepared by the court, even in September, because he had previous obligations to other clients. He also added that the defendants had suggested to the court alternate weekly schedules of two and three days of hearings.
Dan Izenberg contributed to this report