In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court on Thursday rejected former president
Moshe Katsav’s appeal against his rape conviction and his seven-year prison
Almost a year after he was convicted in the Tel Aviv District
Court of two counts of rape, two counts of sexual harassment, an indecent act
using force and obstruction of justice, Supreme Court justices Edna Arbel, Salim
Joubran and Miriam Naor rejected all of Katsav’s defense arguments and said the
conviction and prison sentence imposed by the lower court would
The justices ordered Katsav to present himself at the Tel Aviv
District Court on December 7, where the Prisons Service will take him to begin
serving his sentence.
Katsav, 65, was sentenced to a further two years on
probation and will pay compensation totaling NIS 100,000 to his rape victim,
known as “Alef from the Tourism Ministry.” The former president will also pay
NIS 25,000 compensation to another of the complainants in the case, known as
“Lamed,” whom he sexually abused and harassed.RELATED:
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In announcing their
ruling, the justices had harsh words for Katsav, whom they said had
systematically abused his position as a senior government and public figure to satisfy his sexual desires.
“A great sadness falls on the State of
Israel, when a former government minister, deputy prime minister and president
is found to have committed such acts,” the ruling stated. “The most difficult
scene to witness is that of a national icon, someone who served the country,
being sent to prison.”
Throughout the hearing, Katsav sat in the second
row of the public gallery, surrounded by a son and other family
His wife, Gila, who had accompanied him to the last of his
appeal hearings, chose not to be present for the verdict.
president looked tense, but managed to smile at the start of the hearing as he
greeted his defense team.
As it very quickly became apparent that the
court’s ruling was not in his favor, Katsav’s demeanor changed. He appeared
shocked, occasionally held his head in one hand and at one point appeared close
to breaking down.
In a damning judgment that took almost an hour to read,
the three justices said there was “no doubt” that the sexual relations between
the former president and Alef, his employee when he was tourism minister, had
The court completely dismissed the line of defense
presented by Katsav’s defense lawyers in the appeal, in which they hypothesized
that he and Alef had a “romance.”
Though Katsav had consistently denied
that he had sexual relations with Alef, his attorneys raised that possibility
during the appeal. Using a detailed timeline of the events, including telephone
logs, before and after the time of the rape that Alef said took place in the
Sheraton Hotel in Jerusalem in June 1998, attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Zion
Amir tried to create reasonable doubt that a rape had occurred.
the most difficult aspects of the case was that the rapes Alef complained about
had no witnesses. The court had to weigh Alef’s testimony against that of Katsav
to determine whether the former Tourism Ministry employee was credible and
whether she was telling the truth about the sex attacks, or whether there was
reasonable doubt that they happened.
“The hard core of the plot, the core
story, took place in private,” the justices said in their ruling.
question is whether there is a ‘cloak’ around these events that creates
reasonable doubt?” According to Alef, the Sheraton Hotel rape took place two
months after Katsav had raped her in his office. She testified to police that
Katsav 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.
In an effort to
establish reasonable doubt about both attacks, the defense had asked why Alef
would go to a hotel room with Katsav if he had already raped her in his office,
and suggested instead that the two had engaged in an affair.
appeal hearings, attorney Avigdor Feldman said that Alef had put together pieces
of a puzzle to create a picture of a rape, when in fact none had taken
According to Feldman’s hypothesis – which as the justices noted
differed from both Katsav’s and Alef’s versions of events – Alef went to the
hotel room voluntarily. There, Feldman suggested the two had mutual consensual
relations that almost resulted in full intercourse, but because Alef had not
wished to fully consummate the act Katsav had immediately stopped.
what took place in the hotel had been a rape, Feldman argued, Katsav would have
continued at that point.
However, the justices dismissed this hypothesis
“If there was a relationship between Alef and [Katsav], why
in the aftermath of the incident did his attitude toward her change?” they
asked. “Why did he fire her from her job?” Katsav also denied having sex with
Alef, having a romance with her and even being with her in the hotel, the
Also with regard to the defense’s arguments that there
was reasonable doubt that the rapes happened, the justices pointed to cases of
date rape, in which the fact that a man and a woman had been seen together as a
couple in public did not mean that any sex that later occurred was consensual
and so could not be used as an argument for reasonable doubt.
the right, at any time, to set their boundaries,” the justices said.
defense’s argument that there had been no violence and so there could not have
been any rape was also invalid, said the justices, because of the balance of
power between Alef and Katsav. The then-tourism minister had been her boss, they
The justices emphasized that Katsav was convicted not because he
failed to tell the truth in his testimony before the district court, but because
the court found that Alef’s version was reliable regarding all the charges she
made against him.
Toward the end of the hearing, the former president was
visibly upset as the panel of justices sharply criticized him for raping and
sexually assaulting several employees while in his role as a senior government
and national figure.
Katsav had taken advantage of his authority, first
as tourism minister, then as deputy prime minister and finally as president to
commit several sex crimes, “some of the most serious crimes on the law books,”
the justices said.
“He abused his position, and violated the body and
honor of Alef from the Tourism Ministry, and the honor of both “Hey” and Lamed
from the President’s Residence,” the justices said.
The sex attacks were
apparently premeditated, the court said – Katsav decided to visit Alef’s
apartment, to ask her to accompany him to his office in Tel Aviv because he
“forgot” something, and to invite her to his hotel room.
created situations in which to try to realize his desires, he used his authority
and exalted status to help him carry out these offenses,” said the
“This is very serious behavior.”
Katsav also expressed
no remorse for his actions, the court said, and had never apologized for them.
Instead, he claimed the rapes and sexual assaults never happened.
former president had even tried to slander the complainants, the justices
A major factor in sentencing him to a lengthy prison term was to
deter other potential sexual predators from carrying out similar acts, the court
After the verdict was read, Katsav and his family left the
courthouse without speaking to reporters.
Immediately after the verdict,
state attorney Naomi Granot, a member of the prosecution team, told journalists
that the justices had sent an important message to all of the nation’s
“The Supreme Court showed today that all citizens are equal
under the law – even the president,” said Granot. “The justices have
demonstrated that complainants will be defended, and that anyone who violates
the law will be punished.”
Katsav’s defense attorney Avigdor Feldman
slammed the Supreme Court for accepting the Tel Aviv District Court’s position
that Alef’s testimony was credible.
“We proved unequivocally that at
least one of the rapes could not have occurred according to the complainant’s
version and timeline,” he told reporters.
Feldman added that in a rape
trial such as Katsav’s, where it is the case of one person’s word against
another without any physical evidence, the court examines the “cloak” of
evidence surrounding the alleged sex attack to see whether there is reasonable
doubt that any rape occurred.
“The complainant, and I say this in spite
of the ruling, lied on multiple occasions,” Feldman said. “She didn’t tell the
truth about events surrounding one of the rape charges. But the court decided to
He added that a “massive media pressure” had contributed to
the court’s decision to accept Alef’s testimony as credible.
come alone. She came with troops of journalists.
They accompanied her.
They said that Moshe Katsav was guilty even before the indictment was filed
against him,” Feldman said, in a dig at former attorney-general Menahem Mazuz,
who had given press interviews regarding the case before the former president
“That’s why the court believed the complainant, but
believing the complainant is not enough,” Feldman said.
He said the
defense may consider further action.
“I will read the full verdict; we
only heard the summary. We will think and consider the options together, [and
decide] whether or not it is appropriate to request further hearings,” the
defense attorney said. “There is the legal possibility of requesting a hearing
before an expanded panel of judges.”
After returning home to Kiryat
Malachi (where he was mayor from 1974 to 1981) after the verdict on Thursday,
and with just a month to go before the start of his prison term, Katsav
expressed resentment at the Supreme Court’s decision.
According to one
close friend, David Mot’ei, who visited the former president at his home and
spoke to the press outside Katsav’s house, he appeared strong, and despite the
ruling, Katsav was sure that he “knew the truth.”
Katsav told Mot’ei that
despite a seven-year prison sentence, “nothing could break him” and he “felt no
The former president said that the Supreme Court should have
“heard his arguments, but the [judicial] system was not listening,” Mot’ei
Meanwhile, Alef spoke out in support of the Supreme Court’s
“The severity of the punishment is not as important as the
decision,” she said.
Alef, who remains anonymous, as is standard for
complainants in rape and sexual assault trials in Israel, encouraged others who
have been victims of sexual assault to speak up.
“I hope that women are
not afraid to complain,” she said.
The first woman to complain about
Katsav, “Alef from the President’s Residence,” also expressed relief at the
Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday, but said the former president’s prison
sentence should be “doubled and doubled again.”
“I’m happy that the truth
has come out,” she said, but expressed regret that she had not been included as
one of the complainants in Katsav’s rape trial. She had been controversially
excluded from the final indictment because of what the prosecution termed
“inconsistencies in her testimony.”
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to