katsav in court 311.
(photo credit: AP)
In keeping with the Tel Aviv District Court’s decision to bar reporters from former president Moshe Katsav’s rape trial, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that sentencing pleas, scheduled for Tuesday morning, would be held behind closed doors.
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The justices issued the ruling in response to an appeal filed by journalists, represented by Globes legal reporter Yuval Yoaz, who argued that since both the prosecution and defense had agreed that the press could be present for most of the hearing, there was no reason for the lower court to prohibit this. Yoaz also argued that the public had a right to know the length of the sentence the state was seeking.
Katsav was convicted in December on two counts of rape, indecent assault and sexual harassment. With the exception of the final ruling, a strict publication ban has been in place on the trial since proceedings began in June 2009. All testimony and arguments were held behind closed doors to protect the privacy of the victims.
The State Attorney’s Office had agreed that journalists could be present during the sentencing pleas, in which each side makes its argument for punishment, provided they left the room during portions dealing with the victims.
The court, however, determined that there was too great a risk that the victims’ identities would be exposed, even by accident, and decided to close the doors altogether.
In an effort to come up with a compromise, the justices suggested several options for releasing information without having reporters in the courtroom. In the end it was agreed that the Courts Administration would publish an announcement as soon as possible after the hearing, making sure to remove any information that could identify the victims.
The actual sentencing, the date of which has not yet been set, will be entirely open to the press. While a full protocol of the trial will not be made public, the judges decided that they would selectively release large portions of the transcripts, including that of Katsav’s testimony and cross-examination, with names and details that might reveal the victims’ identities redacted.
The Supreme Court hearing on Monday also revealed new insights on what is likely to unfold during the sentencing pleas. When asked about the expected length of the hearing, both sides said they anticipated a relatively short discussion.
Katsav’s lawyer, Avraham Levy, said the defense did not plan on introducing any character witnesses to testify on his client’s behalf, nor did it plan to have Katsav himself take to the stand in a bid for leniency.
The prosecution said it would not call witnesses, but would present an affidavit attesting to the negative affect the rape had on the life of one of the victims.