Former president Moshe Katsav will remain free until his appeal process is
Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger ruled on Wednesday that
Katsav, who was convicted of rape and sexual harassment, and sentenced to seven
years in prison by the Tel Aviv District Court, is not a flight risk nor does he
present a danger to the public.
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Danziger added that Katsav’s chances of a
successful appeal were good enough to warrant him remaining free for the time
being. “It is impossible to say that Katsav’s chances on appeal are without a
basis,” the justice wrote in his ruling.
In his decision, Danziger
stressed the fact that Katsav being a former president did not affect his ruling
and that all are equal before the law. The justice also emphasized that his
decision did not reflect on the chances for success of the forthcoming appeal
and that his assessment was not binding on the court’s future
In a 25-page ruling, Danziger explained his decision to let
Katsav remain free, citing extensively from Supreme Court decisions in similar
“This court’s rulings teach us that even in cases where the
appellant was handed a long sentence, between four and 10 years, for severe
sexual offenses, the court agreed to stay the execution of the sentence until
the appeal is complete,” he wrote.
Danziger outlined the criteria a judge
must consider when deciding whether someone convicted of a serious crime is
allowed to remain free pending an appeal. These include: level of danger to the
public, the length of the sentence, the chances of a successful appeal, the
appellant’s criminal record, the appellant’s personal circumstances, and whether
the appeal concerns the sentence alone or also the conviction.
indicated that in light of some of the decisions of the lower court, which were
subject to differing interpretations, there is a chance that the rape conviction
will be dropped altogether.
Danziger highlighted the district court’s
decision not to accept the defense team’s secondary argument that Katsav had at
most taken advantage of his position and sexually harassed “Aleph from the
Tourism Ministry,” but had not used force to rape her, as well as the court’s
blanket rejection of Katsav’s alibis, as possible grounds for a successful appeal.
Regarding the remaining three charges –
sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and obstruction of justice – the justice
wrote, “The district court convicted the appellant on these charges based on the
reliability of findings, after hearing directly from the complainants, witnesses
and the appellant, the complainants’ accusations being independently
substantiated. Without setting anything in stone, I don’t believe the
appellant possesses an established defense for these charges.”
said, however, that if Katsav was convicted on the remaining three charges
alone, or if his rape conviction was overturned on appeal, there was good chance
he would receive no prison time.
Danziger stressed that he accepted the
prosecution’s argument that the fact that Katsav had served as the eighth
president of the state should not be given weight in a court ruling, but added
that it was the right of every citizen to have the execution of his sentence
stayed pending appeal.
“The appellant’s case should be like that of any
other citizen in which the appeal court examines the possibility of staying
execution, and the considerations should be the same. The appellant is not
entitled at this stage, after being convicted and sentenced, to enjoy special
privileges compared to any other citizen who was tried, found guilty, convicted
and sentenced; it would be improper, however, to deny him his rights because of
the high ranking post he filled at the time,” the justice said.
released Katsav, ordering him to deposit NIS 300,000 bail, NIS 100,000 of his
own and the remainder from two guarantors. Katsav was ordered not to leave the
country and told that his passport would remain in the court’s
The ruling was received with dismay by women’s rights groups.
The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel said the court’s decision to go
easy on a convicted sex offender and postpone his sentence sent a harsh message
to the public.
“The fact that Moshe Katsav was president should not ease
his punishment, on the contrary; because he is a former president the court
should have been more severe with him and not postpone the punishment he was
handed down,” the group said in a statement.
“The court’s ruling today
damaged the sense of equality before the law and enabled a former president, who
was determined to be a sex offender, to carry on with his life while the
taxpayers continue to sponsor him,” said Ronit Ehrenfreund- Cohen, the director
of the Women’s Status Promotion Department at the Women’s International Zionist
Organization (WIZO). “This ruling sends a harsh message to women victims that
even after a person is convicted of serious sex crimes, he can still postpone
the sentence and walk around free for an unknown, though apparently long,
Moshe Negbi, legal correspondent and analyst for Israel Radio,
said Danziger’s decision undermined the principle of equality before the
Neither Katsav nor any of his family members agreed to comment on
the ruling, but his lawyers said he received the news with mixed
“The stay gives him reason for optimism, but that is mixed with
great sorrow over the fervor of those who support the prosecution,” attorney
Zion Amir said.
Amir said he welcomed the justice’s ruling on the stay of
execution, and that it strengthened the defense team’s belief that the
convictions could be reversed. He said that throughout the entire trial the fact
that Katsav had been president worked against them and not in their
Though a date has yet to be set for the start of the appeal
process, Danziger indicated it would be held soon.