A week before the High Court of Justice is set to hold a hearing over whether
former president Moshe Katsav can stay out of prison until the end of the appeal
process, the Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday released the protocols of the
prosecution witnesses in his rape and sexual harassment case.
of pages of testimonies of friends, colleagues and family members of the various
complainants were issued by Judges George Karra, Miriam Sokolov and Judith
Shevach, with many names and details meticulously blacked-out, to protect the
identity of the complainants.
March 24: Katsav's punishment
Covering Moshe Katsav
Other prosecution protocols, such as those
of women that fell under the statute of limitations but were used to establish
Katsav’s behavior, were not released. The former head of state was convicted in
December of rape and sexual harassment and sentenced in March to seven years in
On Wednesday, the High Court will be deciding whether the former
president will be allowed to stay out of prison till his appeal is complete, or
if he must be jailed in the interim and appear to the court hearings as a
The court had already decided in February that it would publish
the testimonies of the witnesses summoned by the prosecution, as well as those
of the defense.
But the decision to release testimonies of one side of
the story so close to the day of the appeal hearing aroused the ire of Katsav’s
Amnon Shomron, a spokesman for Katsav, said that “it is odd
that a few days before the hearing on the appeal, the court decided to
selectively publish only the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, and to
continue to ban the testimonies of the defense witnesses.”
The public was
already exposed to details of the complainants’ testimonies last December, parts
of which were quoted when the district court justices read the verdict, but the
documents released on Thursday added the voices of people close to the women who
were victimized by Katsav.
“She told me ‘Do you remember that incident
that I told you about in the office? He actually had sex with me there, and he
really raped me,’” Yaron Armosa, a friend of “Aleph from the Tourism Ministry,”
was quoted as saying.
“She was always very afraid of the people around
Katsav,” Armosa added. “She described it as a mafia that’s always around him.”
Armosa said that Aleph told him about Katsav’s behavior beginning in
“He would warm things up with her and compliment her, saying ‘you
look very pretty,’ in a way that made her uncomfortable. After that, he
began verbally harassing her, like saying ‘I think about you a lot at night,’ ‘I
dream about you at night,’ ‘let’s be a couple,’” Armosa said.
me that after that he began to touch her here and there.” He also said that
Katsav would ask her to come to work in a button-down shirt, and then open more
Armosa said that Aleph was embarrassed to say what happened to
her, and called her “very naive.”
The father of “Hey,” a victim who
worked at Beit Hanassi when Katsav was president, also testified that his
daughter was touched inappropriately.
“She said that the president would
make comments and touch her, and she asked me what she could do,” Hey’s father
said. “I had no doubt that she was very upset and didn’t know how to behave and
was very confused.”
While it is hard to believe the court would
deliberately time the release of these documents to sway public opinion and that
of the Supreme Court justices against the defense, one can understand how
Katsav’s team would feel that the decision was unjust, University of Haifa law
professor Emanuel Gross said.
“The fact that the timing is so close to
Katsav’s request to postpone his imprisonment could be coincidental, or raise
suspicions,” he said.
“While the prosecution testimonies were published,
those of the defense witnesses – which would seek to show why the complainants
were not reliable and the president’s conduct should be understood in a
different manner – were not yet released. That, however, does not mean the court
won’t publish them,” Gross added.
“I can understand the defense
attorney’s hard feelings. The timing of this publication is as they
prepare to try convince the High Court of Justice that Katsav’s imprisonment
should be postponed, in part because the complainants’ credibility should be
doubted, and the district court should not have believed them. This could create
the feeling that the court is being impartial,” he said.
“To me it
doesn’t seem that the district court is trying to maim the defense’s efforts to
convince the High Court of Justice. The timing of the publication could be pure
chance. On the other hand, I can certainly understand the defense
attorneys’ feeling of grievance.”
An official in the court system close
to the affair said that the timing was coincidental, and explained that the only
factor that kept the protocols from being published to this point in time was
the meticulous editing work the thousands of pages underwent, which included
repeated examinations to ensure that no details that could identify the
complainants were left visible in the sea of documents. The official could not
say why the prosecution’s witnesses protocols were first to be published.