TA court weighs making testimonies from former president's trial public after they're heard by court.
By DAN IZENBERG
The trial of former president Moshe Katsav will be held behind closed doors, and the testimony of virtually all the witnesses, including the defendant, will not be made public afterwards, the Tel Aviv District Court ruled on Tuesday.
In doing so, it accepted the request of the state, which maintained that although most trials must be held in public, the law recognized that trials involving sex crimes may be held in private to protect the privacy of the victims.
"As we look at the gamut of considerations which serve as a basis for allowing the court to make an exception to the general rule by permitting closed-door hearings, and in light of the inherent and concrete concern [that an open hearing might cause] severe damage to the privacy and modesty of their lives, not to mention their freedom to testify frankly in court, it seems that the principle of open hearings must take a back seat" in this case, the court decreed.
The decision was handed down by the judges presiding over the criminal case against Katsav: George Karra, Miriam Sokolov and Judith Shevach.
"We have decided," they wrote, "that the testimony of the female complainants will be heard behind closed doors and will not be made public. From this decision it follows that the testimony of all witnesses who might disclose the identities of the women and compromise their privacy, including the immediate family of the women, friends, relatives, journalists, public figures and police investigators who had access to the women's version of events, as well as professionals including lawyers and psychologists who provided professional services, will be heard behind closed doors and will not be made public."
Katsav's testimony will also be held behind closed doors and will not be made public, the court ruled.
Katsav's lawyers had opposed the prosecution's request. In their response, the lawyers had written, "The thought that the testimony and cross-examination of the women might be held behind the broad and compassionate back of the prosecution arouses revulsion. The interviews and publications which were conducted by the women in public and all over the place caused critical harm to [Katsav.]"
The lawyers also appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn an earlier decision by the same panel of judges, rejecting their request to be released from representing Katsav. The court had ruled that the hearing would be held four days a week, beginning on September 1, at the end of the summer recess.
In their appeal, the lawyers wrote that they had objected as soon as the court informed them of the schedule. "This 'bed of Sodom' which has been proposed for us is impossible and we have no intention of sleeping in it, pulling the covers over our heads and falling into a pleasant sleep which would mean abandoning all our professional obligations to the defendant and other defendants whom we represent," they wrote.
They also pointed out that the court had rejected their request to postpone the continuation of the trial until October 11, after the end of the Succot recess. They said they needed the time to adequately prepare for the examination and cross-examination of witnesses.
They also asked that the hearings be held three days a week and two days a week alternately.
"Just as the lawyers are obliged to honor the court, so the court is obliged to honor the lawyers, without whom a trial is not a trial," they wrote in their appeal. "The position of the district court, that the lawyers' requests are meant only to waste time, is unworthy and not in keeping with the professionalism and obligations of the lawyers to the legal process and its principles, which are no less than the honor of the judges who are presiding over the case."
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