Former president Moshe Katsav arrived at the Supreme Court on Thursday for the
third and final day in his appeal.
He was accompanied for the first time
by his wife, Gila, and other family members. In previous court sessions,
Katsav’s wife had stayed at their home in Kiryat Malachi.
Katsav arrives at Supreme Court to appeal
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Thursday’s hearing, the former head of state looked dour as he wrote notes on a
yellow pad and passed them to his defense team.
Katsav was convicted in December
of two counts of rape, two counts of sexual harassment, an indecent act using force, and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to seven years in prison
In May, Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger stayed Katsav’s punishment
until his appeal process is complete.
Katsav’s appeal hinges
on Supreme Court Justices Miriam Naor, Edna Arbel and Salim Joubran accepting
his lawyers’ new line of defense that he had consensual sexual relations with
“Alef” from the Tourism Ministry.
When Danziger ruled to stay Katsav’s
punishment, he identified several judicial rulings by the district court that
could lead to his acquittal on the rape charges, should the Supreme Court
determine that the rulings were improper.
The most crucial ruling was
that the district court judges refused to accept Katsav’s defense attorneys’
second line of defense, in which they argued that the former president had had
consensual sexual relations with Alef.
Throughout the trial, Katsav
denied having any sexual relations with Alef. As a result, the judges decided
not to consider that line of defense.
In Thursday’s hearing, Katsav’s
attorney Avigdor Feldman reiterated to the court that the former president did
not rape Alef.
Feldman termed Alef’s version of what happened a “puzzle,”
the pieces of which had been arranged by her to show a picture of a
Feldman claimed, however, that Alef’s behavior pointed to a
different reality in which no rapes had taken place.
indicated that her relationship with Katsav went beyond a professional
relationship, he said.
Instead, Katsav’s defense team suggested that the
former president and Alef had a romance – even though both have consistently
Feldman began by arguing that Alef’s allegation of the rape
she says took place in the Sheraton Hotel in Jerusalem in June 1998 was
According to Alef, the hotel rape took place two months
after Katsav had raped her in his office. She testified that he asked her to
come to the Sheraton to review documents in the lobby, but then invited her to a
hotel room, where he raped her.
Feldman asked why Alef would have agreed
to meet Katsav in a hotel room two months after she he allegedly raped her in
Instead, the lawyer posited “an evolving system that began
with consent, at least partial, and which perhaps continued in the incident in
the Tourism Ministry – which we say was never proven – continued at the hotel
and resulted in sexual intercourse.”
In an attempt to undermine the
credibility of Alef’s testimony, Katsav’s defense team prepared a detailed
timeline of events surrounding the rape that Alef said took place in the
That timeline is based mostly on telephone conversations
that Alef made or received before and immediately after the time she said the
rape took place.
Alef’s conduct, as evidenced in part by these phone
calls, indicates that she was not “traumatized” by a rape, as she had claimed,
Alef testified that she walked to the Sheraton and
immediately went to Katsav’s room, Feldman said. The defense said she answered a
call on her cellphone at 6:16 p.m., and then another from the Tourism Ministry
three minutes later.
“According to Alef’s version, she was already in the
room when these calls took place,” said Feldman. “She was in the room, but none
of the things she said happened there really took place, because she had a
50-second phone call there.”
Feldman also pointed to calls that Alef took
shortly after the time she claimed the rape occurred.
“We need to view
Alef’s behavior as evidence that a rape didn’t take place,” Feldman told the
court. “Why did she answer those calls?” He later raised the issue of “erotic
phone calls” between Alef and Katsav, and of several late-night phone calls
between the two, including when Katsav was abroad.
He rejected the
prosecution’s claim that Alef had not participated willingly in those calls, and
argued that they were evidence of a consensual relationship between the
According to Feldman, Alef called Katsav when he was in Portugal,
and the two talked for eight minutes.
Joubran interjected and told
Feldman that perhaps the call had been work related.
“I call my secretary
when I’m abroad, but never at half-past midnight,” retorted
“What did [Alef] have to talk about in those calls unless there
was an intimate relationship? Does this not indicate that there was a
relationship above and beyond a work relationship?” Feldman added that had Alef
not wanted to receive latenight calls from Katsav, she could have just hung up
“All this flies in the face of Alef’s testimony that there
were two rapes,” he said.
When Joubran pointed out that Katsav had not
given any explanation for these calls, Feldman said that Katsav was presumed
innocent, and it should be up to Alef to show beyond reasonable doubt that her
version was true.
One issue that was repeatedly raised during the
three-day appeal is the role of the media in Katsav’s rape trial in the Tel Aviv
Katsav’s defense team railed against the media on several
occasions, claiming that journalists had demonized, humiliated and defamed
In court on Thursday, Katsav defense attorney Avi Lavie said that
one of the complainants against Katsav, “Alef Kaf” from the Transportation
Ministry, did not testify against the former president until after she read an
interview with Alef in a newspaper.
Following the hearing, Katsav refused
to speak to reporters, but his attorney Zion Amir consented to an
Amir responded to questions on whether Katsav’s defense team
said the former president had lied in his earlier testimony when he denied
having sexual relations with Alef.
“At no stage did anyone argue that Mr.
Katsav lied, at no stage did anyone argue that he did not tell the truth,” Amir
said. “What was presented in court was a legal claim.
“I have learned
there is a huge chasm between what attorneys say in a courtroom and what the
media publishes,” he added scathingly.
The Supreme Court is expected to
issue its ruling on the appeal in about three months.Ron Friedman
contributed to this report.