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Key Weinstein sex abuse hearing to be held in secret


AFP New York
A New York judge on Friday ordered that a key hearing in the rape and sexual assault case against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein be held behind closed doors, prompting protests from US media.
The hearing is important for a trial that has become emblematic of the #MeToo anti-harassment movement, as it will determine whether other women accusing the former mogul of sexual abuse can give evidence, aside from the two whose accusations led to the prosecution.
Any testimony from other alleged victims of 67-year-old Weinstein -- one of the most powerful men in Hollywood before a cascade of sexual misconduct allegations precipitated his downfall -- could increase his chances of being convicted.
Prosecutor Joan Orbon-Illuzzi said a private hearing was necessary to preserve the confidentiality of accusers whose testimony she wants to present.
Weinstein's lawyers maintain that publicly releasing their names and allegations would hurt his chances of getting a fair trial when the case comes to court on June 3.
But a lawyer representing 13 media organizations -- including The New York Times and New Yorker magazine, which first broke the news of the accusations against Weinstein in October 2017 -- said the hearing should be public in the interests of press freedom.
The lawyer argued that most of the charges against Weinstein had already been discussed in the press and on social media, and said he would immediately appeal the decision.
Judge James Burke however said there was "no alternative method" and confirmed that the session would be held behind closed doors.
Since October 2017, Weinstein has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than 80 women, including prominent actresses such as Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek.
The case brought in New York -- focused on the alleged assaults on two women -- is however the only one that has resulted in criminal proceedings against Weinstein.

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First Published: Apr 26 2019 | 11:55 PM IST

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