(photo credit: Mor Aloni)
Following this week’s sentencing of former president Moshe Katsav to seven years
in prison for rape, sexual harassment and obstruction of justice, and his
subsequent dismissal of the judges’ ruling and decision to appeal to the Supreme
Court, it is worth remembering what he said at the start of the trial.
am here today by choice, I depart today on a long, difficult, journey to battle
for my innocence. Here, it is no longer a mock trial. Here, they won’t
determine my case without seeing me, without hearing me, without reading all the
investigation materials... I am embarking on a long and difficult battle to
purify my name and I promise once again that I will remain innocent,” Katsav
said following his indictment.
That was before the judges determined that
he lied and convicted him. Now, Katsav and his lawyers are claiming that he
didn’t receive a fair trial in district court and are hoping for a more
successful run in the Supreme Court.
Before the trial, Katsav claimed he
was unjustly tried by the public and the media, now he’s claiming he was
unjustly tried by the district court. The difference is that unlike the media,
which didn’t have access to all the evidence and judged him mostly based on
one-sided leaks and rumors, the judges spent nearly two years hearing both sides
of the case, providing Katsav with a full opportunity to present the truth as he
saw it and with protection from the media in the form of a trial behind closed
For Katsav to now turn around and equate the fairness of the court
trial to that of the “shadow trial” conducted in the press, accusing the judges
of “buying in to the lie,” while understandable given the outcome, tells us that
his only idea of fair trial is a trial that ends with his
KATSAV’S OUTBURST in the courtroom, just as Judge Judith
Shevach was reading out the considerations in favor of reducing his sentence,
can only be described as awkward and highly ironic.
Katsav’s attorney Zion Amir said, “Katsav will go before the Supreme Court with
his head held high, with full conviction of the justness of his claims and with
faith that the Supreme Court will lend an ear to his arguments.”
will Katsav say if the Supreme Court doesn’t overturn the decision? What if,
after reading the trial protocols and hearing the sides’ arguments once more,
the justices determine that he is indeed guilty of everything he was convicted
of? Will he then too claim that “the lie won the day?” Will he once again accuse
the women complainants of conspiring against him? Will he still blame the media
for fouling the waters? Where will he seek justice next?
Judges George Karra,
Miriam Sokolov and Shevach did a great service to the State of Israel and the
rule of law when they sentenced a former president as they would any other
convicted rapist. In doing so, they proved that when it comes to paying for
crimes, all are equal before the law. Their decision will lend courage to any
other judge faced with sentencing a public figure and give pause to any public
figure who believes his rank will protect him.
News of the judges’ ruling
is already and will continue to be news all around the world, showcasing Israel
as a free and open democracy capable of punishing even its most successful
figures when they break the law.
The judges proved that they can show
compassion when they need to, granting a measure of relief both to Katsav’s
victims and also to Katsav himself in the form of a sentence which could have
been much harsher.
BARRING A shocking and highly unlikely reversal of his
conviction, the most Katsav can realistically hope for from the Supreme Court is
a reduction in his sentence. Even if the court determines that seven years is
too long and decides to adopt Shevach’s proposed sentence of four years or even
less, it will still be a far cry from proclaiming him innocent.
former president, like any other convicted felon, is well within his rights to
appeal. He can also be granted a measure of understanding in his desire and
insistence to see the case through to the end, especially if he is sincere in
his belief in his innocence, and if the Supreme Court determines he is innocent
after all, the nation would owe him an apology.
However, if at the end of
the day he is declared guilty again, the court, the state and the public would
not require his admission of guilt or his consent to send him to jail. But he
would owe the nation an apology.