Analysis: By going public, Katsav hopes to plant doubts in judges' minds, experts say

"The goal of this press conference is to prepare a legal strategy that will allow Katsav to call for a mistrial," media consultant Eyal Arad tells Post.

By SHELLY PAZ
March 11, 2009 23:04
3 minute read.
katsav angry as hell 298 ap

katsav angry as hell 248 88. (photo credit: AP)

 
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At a press conference scheduled for Thursday, former president Moshe Katsav hopes to delegitimize the expected indictment against him and to present it as a product of misplaced considerations of ego and prestige, leading media consultant Eyal Arad told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. "The goal of this press conference is to prepare a legal strategy that will allow Katsav to call for a mistrial, meaning that they would claim that the media and the legal system's conduct in this case have been unfair so far, and that the court cannot ignore these claims, and therefore he will demand to have the charges against him thrown out," said Arad, who served as Kadima leader Tzipi Livni's strategist during the recent election campaign. "Clearly we don't know what he plans to say at the press conference, but it is fair to assume that one of the main goals is to cast doubt on the reliability of the main complainant [Tourism Ministry Aleph] in order to strengthen the main argument that the [draft] indictment is baseless and that he was the victim of persecution," Arad said. He stressed that he could not comment on the merits of the case. "But I can say that once you go to war against the entire justice system you create an incentive for the system not to listen to you. After all, the real battle will take place in court, and not in public opinion. You might win in the polls but lose in court," Arad said. Prof. Simha Landau, from the Institute of Criminology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, also believes Katsav's actions are aimed at the court of public opinion. "As part of this struggle, former president Katsav is trying to tell his version. As much as we put our faith in the judges and assume that they know how to ignore what is published in the media, they are human beings, too," Landau said. The affair was unprecedented and included all the ingredients of a good scandal - a senior public figure, sex and violence, he said. "All these elements draw more attention than usual and make the case even harder than it was to start with," Landau said. Prof. Eliezer Lederman, from Tel Aviv University's Buchmann Faculty of Law, also said he could not give an informed opinion on the case, since an indictment had not been submitted and the evidence had not been presented. "The Prosecutors's Office is allowed to close cases only on two conditions: First, when there is no public interest - and no one can say that when a president is suspected of such crimes the public has no interest in the case. "And second, when the evidence is not sufficient, and in criminal law the evidence most be satisfactory beyond a reasonable doubt," Lederman said. "What constitutes reasonable doubt, though, is a professional question, and maybe the court will think that the evidence is not strong enough," he said. In the end, "the court's decision is supposed to be the final word in any case, and the argument about the court's decision is purely professional and not personal," Lederman said. Israel Bar Association chairman Yori Guy-Ron said he was not sure that Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz had done everything perfectly, but the fact that Katsav had "declared war" on the justice system and the attorney-general, and refused for some time to step down, had severely damaged the institution of the presidency and the legal system. "This affair is one of the most grave the state has known. When a president attacks the entire justice system and the attorney-general, it harms the entire legal establishment's status in the eye of the public. "I am sure that attorneys-general are not free of mistakes, but they are definitely not 'setting someone up' or trying to frame people. This is a cheap populism," Guy-Ron said. He was referring to remarks made by Katsav's brother, Lior, who recently said Mazuz's actions in the case were motivated by personal considerations. Guy-Ron also said the press conference could be an attempt to influence the judges' subconscious. "They [Katsav's advisers] create a case in the media. The judges will hear all of Katsav's answers on Thursday at the press conference instead of in court, and we can never know how this information will affect what's in the back of their minds. This entire move is meant to be a 'spin' that will affect the legal process, even though it has nothing to with the world of law," Guy-Ron said.

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