Former president of Israel Moshe Katsav.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
For the second time this year, the Israel Prisons Service parole board rejected former president Moshe Katsav’s appeal for early parole.
In a unanimous vote Thursday, the board denied early release for the 70-year-old prisoner.
Katsav entered Ramle’s Ma’asiyahu Prison in December 2011, after being sentenced to seven years for rape and other sexual assault offenses.
In April, after serving twothirds of his sentence, Katsav’s request for release was rejected by the parole board after the Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority recommended against it.
Katsav appealed the decision last month, after which the board seemed to change its decision, saying it would not oppose his release this time around.
Katsav’s lawyers argued that the former president was not legally obligated to admit guilt to gain an early release. They asserted that the parole board was mistaken in ruling that he still poses a danger of raping women, and that his health has plummeted since his early request was rejected, putting his life in danger.
However, the State Attorney’s Office has opposed Katsav’s release because he has not taken responsibility or apologized for his crimes.
In its decision, board members said that Katsav needs to begin treatment – which “should start behind bars.”
They noted that they were convinced that Katsav is “ready to begin the process of treatment and has begun to understand the problematic nature of his conduct in the past.”
Channel 2 news reported on Thursday night that the Prisons Service decided to increase security surrounding the former president for fear he might try to harm himself.
According to the report, a personal guard was assigned around-the-clock to watch Katsav after he told confidants he was “in total despair and broken.”
“I have the impression that until they won’t see my body bleeding in the streets of the city they will not let go of me,” he said. “I agreed to all the conditions and all the restrictions placed before me. I have never been offered a treatment program in prison that I was opposed to. I do not know how to pick up the pieces.”
Katsav’s lawyer, Zion Amir, told reporters after the hearing that it was a “difficult and sad day, a day in which the principle of equality of all before the law was denied.” He said the former president would appeal the decision.
Amir accused several female Knesset members of trying to contact parole board members and sway the vote against his client. “That should not happen in a lawful state,” he said.
Meretz MK Michal Rozin mocked Katsav’s lawyer for suggesting she interfered in the decision.
“Zion Amir, just like his client, is looking for shortcuts and resorting to false charges,” Rozin said. “It was the national interest that won today.”
Zionist Union’s Shelly Yacimovich, who testified against Katsav, said the judges did the right thing by resisting tremendous pressure to release Katsav.
“It is an important ethical message that there is true equality before the law, no matter who each prisoner is,” Yacimovich said. “It is even more important that Israeli society is going through an impressive process of enabling victims to act courageously.”
Shas leader Arye Deri said he was shocked and disappointed by the decision.
“He is not dangerous and he deserved mercy,” Deri said. “I don’t understand. This really angers me.”
Attorney Liat Klein, of the Association for Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, responded to Amir’s claims against MKs saying: “This is not persecution, this is justice, and it is unfortunate that this is how his lawyers choose to strike out.”
The association’s chairwoman, Orit Sulitzeanu, said that the public should be reminded that Kastav is a “despicable sex offender who has never internalized the seriousness of his actions and who still defines the sexual offenses for which he was sentenced as ‘close ties.’” Gila Oshrat, chairwoman of the Women’s International Zionist Organization Israel, also welcomed the decision.
“The possibility of granting parole to a former president of the state without him having admitted to the severity of his actions and taking responsibility and apologizing to the victims is intolerable,” she said.Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.