Following rumors on Sunday that President Reuven Rivlin is leaning toward commuting the sentence of Moshe Katsav due to a drastic deterioration of the former president’s health, his office poured cold water over the issue – for the second time in months.
A statement issued from the President’s Office indicated that no formal request has been received, and that if it arrives, the president will give it the same consideration he gives all such requests, in full consultation with the relevant authorities.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who some believe is supporting a reduced sentence for Katsav behind-thescenes, had no comment.
On April 6, the parole board denied Katsav’s request for an early release from prison.
He had asked to be released early after having served twothirds of a seven-year sentence for rape.
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 Prison in Ramle in December 2011.
According to media reports, the former president’s physical and mental condition has significantly deteriorated following the parole board’s rejection of his request.
Despite those reports, Katsav was permitted to leave prison with his wife, Gila, on the eve of Passover to be with his family in Kiryat Malachi.
Providing a rationale for rejecting his early release, the parole board said: “Before us is a prisoner who denies that he committed the crimes, who continues to claim his innocence despite the court’s decisions.”
On the issue of regret, the board adopted the prosecution’s position – officially revealed in the published portion of the decision (some parts were not published) – that Katsav could not be released early since no sexual offender has been released early without expressing regret.
Katsav acted “as if there were no legal proceedings and he continues even today as someone who has not undergone any treatment connected to the crimes he has perpetrated.”
The question of an early release has split the public, along with most politicians.
Female politicians in particular have demanded that he serve his full sentence, while some top legal scholars, such as former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, have said he should be released at this point.
The question of clemency or a full pardon for Katsav arose during the presidency of Shimon Peres, who said that he would never agree to a request from a sex offender.
Reports that Rivlin might pardon Katsav also surfaced in March, at which time spokespeople for the president said that Rivlin had never expressed support for early release. However, they added that if a request were received, Rivlin would review it, weighing all the facts in the case with the relevant authorities from the Justice Ministry before making a decision.
MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List), chairwoman of the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women and Gender Equality, said she opposes a pardon and asked Rivlin to reject it and make clear he has zero tolerance for sexual violence.
“Just two weeks ago the parole board, which is professional in its content and character, decided not to [shorten Katsav’s sentence] because he did not express remorse and was not willing to undergo any rehabilitative or educational process,” she said. “It’s clear to me that his family and lawyers will use any excuse to ask for a pardon, but the Prisons Service has a professional system that can evaluate his mental situation and give him the help he needs, paid for by the state, and something his victims did not receive.”
Meretz MKs Zehava Gal- On, Michal Rozin and Tamar Zandberg came out against what they called Katsav’s “nonstop pity campaign.”
“The claims about his mental situation and depression do not warrant special status and certainly not a pardon,” they wrote in a joint statement.
“Like most prisoners, he deserves treatment between the walls of prison."
“There is no doubt a pardon for Katsav will harm the public’s trust in the judiciary, including the parole board, and will be a slap in the face for the victims, whose pain cannot be shortened or erased, not by a parole board or by the president,” they added.
Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel director-general Orit Soliciano said: “Katsav did not admit to nor express remorse for his actions. If his situation has deteriorated, we are certain that the prison authorities will make sure he receives the appropriate medical and mental treatment, but a sex criminal who does not express remorse, admit his deed or undergo rehabilitation should not be pardoned under any circumstances.
“Katsav should internalize the fact that he must pay the full price for what he did and not try to find a different way to escape every time,” she added.
It is unusual to seek commutation of a sentence so soon after the parole board’s rejection, but reports indicate he might have a chance if his condition has deteriorated sufficiently in the last month.
One of Katsav’s lawyers, Zion Amir, has already indicated that he is prepared to appeal the parole board’s decision. Katsav has two chances for a successful appeal. First, he can appeal to the Lod District Court, and if he loses that, he can appeal to the Supreme Court.