Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav walks towards the entrance to Maasiyahu prison in Ramle, near Tel Aviv, December 7, 2011.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Former president Moshe Katsav addressed the parole board on Sunday pleading for early release from prison, where he has served approximately two-thirds of a seven-year sentence for rape.
Katsav reportedly burst into tears during the closed-doors hearing.
A decision is expected to be announced Sunday, with the key factors being: the prisoner’s behavior in jail; absence of danger to commit future offenses; extent of rehabilitation; and the public interest.
Although the 12-hour hearing was behind closed doors, it was expected that the prosecution opposed Katsav’s early release from Ma’asiyahu prison in Ramle, attacking his refusal to take responsibility for his actions or express regret as proof that he has not rehabilitated.
They also were expected to have stated that the former head of state’s refusal to take responsibility meant he did not go through the jail’s rehabilitation program for sex offenders.
Furthermore, they had been expected to argue that an early release would add harm to his victims and send the wrong message to the public about the severity of sexual offenses.
Presiding over the parole board is retired judge Moshe Mechlis, who is joined by a sociologist and a psychologist.
Katsav’s lawyers had been expected to rest their plea for an early release on his good behavior in prison, his worsening health, age and an argument that he is no danger to society. Along those lines, they were to have argued that even his past offenses were connected to his power as president, an office he will never return to again.
Katsav was convicted of two counts of rape, one count of committing an indecent act using force, one count of committing an indecent act, two counts of sexual harassment, one count of harassing a witness and one count of obstructing justice. He entered Ma’asiyahu in December 2011.
Controversy erupted regarding his plea request two weeks ago with rumors that Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and President Reuven Rivlin were pushing for an early release and implying that the eighth president’s sentence would be commuted if the parole board does not release him.
Following the reports, however, Rivlin’s spokeswoman issued a statement of clarification that he has not supported the idea of giving clemency to Katsav, and will discuss the possibility only if the matter comes up in an appeal directed to his office. Even then, he will not make a decision without consulting with the Justice Ministry and taking into account all the relevant factors, as all his predecessors have done when appeals for clemency or pardons were put to them, she said.
Similarly, Shaked’s spokeswoman has said that, contrary to reports, she has not yet taken a position on the matter.
Rather, she views the issue as not having arrived on her desk, and she will not prejudge or try to sway the parole board’s ruling on the matter.
In response to the possibility that Katsav’s sentence might be commuted, MKs Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) and Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) proposed a bill under which a president who wants to pardon a criminal would have to consult with the sentencing court.Lahav Harkov and Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.