(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Former president Moshe Katsav's lawyers on Monday 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.
According to the law, however, the resignation must be approved by the court.
Katsav's lawyers, Zion Amir, Avigdor Feldman and Avraham Lavie, said they could not accept the court's demand to hold hearings four days a week beginning September 1. They also charged that the court had spoken insultingly to them and that it had been unwilling even to hear their arguments on this issue.
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.
"It seems the court believes, even before the trial has begun, that it's an arm-wrestling match between it and the lawyers," Katsav's attorneys 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 hearing 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 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.
The court will likely rule on the lawyers' request at the next hearing, which is to take place in two weeks or less, at which time the defense is also due to present its answer in writing to the state's indictment of Katsav.