(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The trial of former president Moshe Katsav on charges of sexual misconduct began on Tuesday morning, when the first witness for the prosecution was called to the stand.
According to a decision by Tel Aviv District Court, the proceedings will be held behind closed doors and the court will not provide any information regarding the testimony. The court has also reached a compromise with Katsav's lawyers whereby it will hold three hearings a week.
Some 15 women representing organizations for victims of sexual assault protested in front of the court. They held signs with slogans such as, "Ashamed to be a woman in Israel," and said they would hold vigils outside the court every time one of the complainants against Katsav comes to testify.
Katsav arrived at the court gates with his son Yisrael, his brother Lior and his lawyer Zion Amir. His wife Gila was not with him, and the court would not allow his brother and his son into the courtroom.
The first witness to testify was L.Y. The charges against Katsav in her case include sexual assault, but not rape.
The panel of judges is made up of George Karra, Judith Shevach and Miriam Sokolov. Katsav is represented by attorneys Zion Amir, Avigdor Feldman and Avraham Lavie. The prosecutors are Ronit Amiel, from the Central District Attorney's Office, and Nisim Merom, from the Tel Aviv District Attorney's Office.
The charges against Katsav include two counts of rape; one count of committing an indecent act, using force; one count of committing an indecent act; two counts of sexual harassment; one count of harassing a witness and one count of obstructing justice.
The indictment covers alleged sexual misconduct on Katsav's part against three women - A., who worked for him in the Tourism Ministry, and H. and L.Y., who worked for him in Beit Hanassi. He is accused of raping A. twice.
According to the indictment, L.Y. was responsible for preparing Katsav's 60th birthday celebration in 2005 and they met frequently to plan the event.
"During these meetings, and in previous work meetings, when they were alone, the defendant frequently made personal comments to L.Y. and asked her personal questions. Among other things, he told her she was sweet, that she had beautiful eyes, that she 'looked good today,' that she was 'dressed nicely today,' and asked her 'who she was going to meet?' and 'what about a boyfriend?'" the indictment reads.
On December 25, 2005, the day of the party, Katsav allegedly asked her for a hug and held her tightly front to front for a long time, while turning his face to her neck. He also asked her to hug him tightly.
After L.Y. was questioned by police, Katsav allegedly called her into his office and told her he wanted to know what she had told police, so that he could make sure his version did not contradict it.
Regarding his conduct toward L.Y., Katsav was charged with committing an indecent act, sexual harassment, obstructing justice and harassing a witness.
Katsav's lawyer Avigdor Feldman told The Jerusalem Post he could not discuss anything about the trial except what the court might allow in the future. However, he added that the court has said it might allow information about the proceedings to be published from time to time.