Legal Affairs: A rapist reduced to blaming the courts

First it was the media. Now it is the judges. Who will Katsav turn on if the Supreme Court rejects his appeal?

March 25, 2011 16:21
4 minute read.

Katsav. (photo credit: Mor Aloni)

Following this week’s sentencing of former president Moshe Katsav to seven years in prison for rape, sexual harassment and obstruction of justice, and his subsequent dismissal of the judges’ ruling and decision to appeal to the Supreme Court, it is worth remembering what he said at the start of the trial.

“I am here today by choice, I depart today on a long, difficult, journey to battle for my innocence. Here, it is no longer a mock trial. Here, they won’t determine my case without seeing me, without hearing me, without reading all the investigation materials... I am embarking on a long and difficult battle to purify my name and I promise once again that I will remain innocent,” Katsav said following his indictment.

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That was before the judges determined that he lied and convicted him. Now, Katsav and his lawyers are claiming that he didn’t receive a fair trial in district court and are hoping for a more successful run in the Supreme Court.

Before the trial, Katsav claimed he was unjustly tried by the public and the media, now he’s claiming he was unjustly tried by the district court. The difference is that unlike the media, which didn’t have access to all the evidence and judged him mostly based on one-sided leaks and rumors, the judges spent nearly two years hearing both sides of the case, providing Katsav with a full opportunity to present the truth as he saw it and with protection from the media in the form of a trial behind closed doors.

For Katsav to now turn around and equate the fairness of the court trial to that of the “shadow trial” conducted in the press, accusing the judges of “buying in to the lie,” while understandable given the outcome, tells us that his only idea of fair trial is a trial that ends with his acquittal.

KATSAV’S OUTBURST in the courtroom, just as Judge Judith Shevach was reading out the considerations in favor of reducing his sentence, can only be described as awkward and highly ironic.

On Wednesday, Katsav’s attorney Zion Amir said, “Katsav will go before the Supreme Court with his head held high, with full conviction of the justness of his claims and with faith that the Supreme Court will lend an ear to his arguments.”

But what will Katsav say if the Supreme Court doesn’t overturn the decision? What if, after reading the trial protocols and hearing the sides’ arguments once more, the justices determine that he is indeed guilty of everything he was convicted of? Will he then too claim that “the lie won the day?” Will he once again accuse the women complainants of conspiring against him? Will he still blame the media for fouling the waters? Where will he seek justice next?

Judges George Karra, Miriam Sokolov and Shevach did a great service to the State of Israel and the rule of law when they sentenced a former president as they would any other convicted rapist. In doing so, they proved that when it comes to paying for crimes, all are equal before the law. Their decision will lend courage to any other judge faced with sentencing a public figure and give pause to any public figure who believes his rank will protect him.

News of the judges’ ruling is already and will continue to be news all around the world, showcasing Israel as a free and open democracy capable of punishing even its most successful figures when they break the law.

The judges proved that they can show compassion when they need to, granting a measure of relief both to Katsav’s victims and also to Katsav himself in the form of a sentence which could have been much harsher.

BARRING A shocking and highly unlikely reversal of his conviction, the most Katsav can realistically hope for from the Supreme Court is a reduction in his sentence. Even if the court determines that seven years is too long and decides to adopt Shevach’s proposed sentence of four years or even less, it will still be a far cry from proclaiming him innocent.

The former president, like any other convicted felon, is well within his rights to appeal. He can also be granted a measure of understanding in his desire and insistence to see the case through to the end, especially if he is sincere in his belief in his innocence, and if the Supreme Court determines he is innocent after all, the nation would owe him an apology.

However, if at the end of the day he is declared guilty again, the court, the state and the public would not require his admission of guilt or his consent to send him to jail. But he would owe the nation an apology.

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