Almost five years after he was first accused and two years since he was charged,
former president Moshe Katsav was sentenced on Tuesday in Tel Aviv District
Court to seven years in prison and a two-year suspended sentence for the rape
and sexual harassment of women who worked for him while he served as president
and as a cabinet minister.
The court also ordered Katsav to pay
compensation of NIS 100,000 and NIS 25,000 respectively to two of his
Timeline: Rape case of a former president
Aleph from Beit Hanassi to file civil suit against Katsav
Katsav is slated to enter prison on May 8. His lawyers said they
would appeal to the Supreme Court.
The former president continues to
maintain his innocence and lashed out at the judges during the hearing, accusing
them of “participating in the lie” that he claims the victims concocted against
Nearly three months after the three-judge panel of the Tel Aviv
District Court unanimously convicted Katsav of two counts of rape, sexual
harassment, committing an indecent act while using force, witness harassment and
obstruction of justice, the question of whether or not the judges would send the
former president to jail was answered emphatically.
Though they failed to
reach a unanimous conclusion in the case of the sentencing – in a minority
opinion, Judge Judith Shevach proposed a shorter sentence of four years in prison – in the end, the majority ruled that Israel’s eighth president would
go to jail for seven years.
In his majority ruling, Judge George Karra
said that what made the trial unique was not the nature of the offenses, but the
identity of the offender.
“The accused committed the deeds as an ordinary
man, and as an ordinary man he must face punishment. No man is above the law,
whatever his status.
In our opinion, there is truth in the prosecution’s
position that the accused’s high rank, which served him to commit his offenses,
should be considered an aggravating factor and not a mitigating factor that
would lead to his being released without punishment,” said Karra.
claim that seeing someone who was president go to jail is too difficult to bear
may perhaps be understood on an emotional level, but surely cannot be accepted
on a moral level and be used as an extenuating factor to justify avoiding
substantial punishment,” he added.
Karra refused to accept the defense’s
mitigating claims that Katsav had used no force against his victims, and ruled
that all the necessary force had come from the power dynamic between the victims
and their attacker, with Katsav’s rank and authority holding sway over the women
who worked under him.
He also failed to credit Katsav for his years of
public service as the defense requested, stating that the public arena in which
Katsav operated was the “hunting grounds where he stalked his prey.”
mustn’t forget that the accused is not the victim that the law is ordered to
protect, but the one who harmed his victims,” said Karra, stressing the severity
of the offenses of rape and sexual harassment.
In addressing Katsav’s
lawyers’ main line of defense – the “media trial” that Katsav had to undergo
alongside his actual trial and that caused him undue suffering over the last
halfdecade, Karra said that the judges’ recognition of the suffering Katsav and
his loved ones had experienced warranted easing the sentence, but did not
justify dropping the charges.
He said that if it weren’t for this
consideration, Katsav’s punishment would have been much more severe.
her minority opinion, Shevach differed with her fellow judges on the degree of
gravity that should be given to Katsav’s defense strategy.
“A decision on
abuse of process is made when there is a drastic injustice caused by the
judgment of the accused by the media... The cries of glee and the troubling
taunts hurled towards the accused during the reading of the verdict were but the
final chord in a long and continuous process of judgment of the accused by the
public and his pre-trial conviction,” said Shevach.
“The court does not
require cheerleaders or other auxiliary aid,” she went on. “The court requires
the public’s trust, and that trust is severely harmed when the trial is
conducted in the shadow of organized demonstrations against the accused, that
pronounce him a rapist before and during the evidentiary hearings of his
As she spoke, the cries of protesters calling for a strict
sentence could be heard from outside the courthouse.
criticized the attorney-general for making what she called “miserable and
pointless” remarks about Katsav prior to the trial, and others in the State
Attorney’s Office for leaking unprecedented amounts of information about the
trial to the media.
Shevach said the only way to truly compensate Katsav
for his suffering during the trial was to shorten his sentence, and suggested
four years in prison.
At the same time, Shevach proposed that the amount
of money Katsav should be forced pay his victims as compensation be increased to
the legal limit of NIS 258,000.
In the end, however, the majority opinion
was adopted. Katsav was sentenced to seven years in prison and two years’
suspended sentence, and ordered to compensate his victims. The judges
also declared his offenses as constituting moral turpitude.
most of the reading of the sentence, Katsav remained silent, sitting in the
accused’s booth and listening closely to what the judges said. But after
hearing what punishment the judges had in store for him, he let his emotions,
for a moment, get the better of him.
While Shevach was reading her
minority opinion, Katsav broke down in tears, and his son approached to embrace
The tender moment, however, quickly turned nasty when in response to
something his son said to him, Katsav lashed out at the judges.
wrong,” said Katsav referring to the judges. “The whole verdict is wrong. You
allowed the lie to win the day.”
Katsav accused the judges of treating
him unfairly throughout the trial, not allowing him to present all his
“The women know that they lied, they are now sitting and
mocking the verdict,” he added.
Immediately after the sentence was
pronounced, Katsav’s lawyer, Zion Amir, asked to postpone the start of the
sentence, pending a Supreme Court ruling in the appeal he planned to
Amir said the conviction was highly controversial and warranted the
Supreme Court’s attention, especially in light of the minority opinion, which he
claimed put in question not only the sentence, but also the verdict
After a brief consultation, the sides agreed to stay the start of
the sentence by 45 days, until after Pessah.
Near the end of the hearing,
a journalist was removed from the courtroom. Later, it turned out that he had
recorded parts of the proceedings and sent them electronically to be
The Courts Administration expressed disappointment with media
outlets, saying that despite the cooperation they had received, the media had
violated courtroom norms and practices and broadcast material not allowed for
Soon after the judges left the courtroom, a ruckus erupted
between Katsav’s family and supporters, and reporters rushing to get a comment
form the ex-president. Katsav was eventually able, with the aid of the
courthouse guards, to exit the courtroom, and from there, he quickly made his
way out of the courthouse and into the vehicle that drove him home to Kiryat
The defense team stayed behind for a time to answer reporters’
questions. Amir said in response to the sentence that it was “a sad day of
mourning” and not a “banner day for democracy, as some people were depicting
He said that the sentence was not surprising given the judges’
opinions, and that no one accounted for the fact that during four-and-a-half
years, no consideration had been given to the trials and tribulations that the
former president faced.
Amir reiterated his plan to appeal the decision
and said that for the whole truth to get out, the entire protocol of the trial
would have to be made public.
“The public only saw half of the story,” he
Katsav’s other lawyers, Avigdor Feldman and Avi Lavi, repeated
Amir’s insistence on appealing. Lavi said that “Judge Shevach’s minority
ruling would echo loudly in the Supreme Court.”
Prosecution lawyer Ronit
Amiel had little to say, stating only that “the verdict speaks for itself.”