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The High Court of Justice on Monday agreed to give the state three more days to respond to five petitions demanding that Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz scrap the plea bargain reached with former president Moshe Katsav and indict him on the graver charges included in an earlier draft indictment.
According to the court's decision, the state must submit its reply by 1 p.m. Thursday. The court also gave the petitioners until 10 a.m. on Sunday, July 8, to respond to the state's arguments.
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Meanwhile, in a letter sent to all attorneys working in the State Attorney's Office, outgoing State Attorney Eran Shendar charged that while some of the criticism against the plea bargain was objective and worthy, some elements were "exploiting the situation in order to damage the status of the attorney-general and the state prosecution to weaken them and diminish the threat they pose - from the point of view of these elements - to the independence and power of the prosecution."
Shendar charged that much of the information regarding the Katsav case that has been published recently "is not precise, to say the least, includes erroneous and partial information and is motivated by different interests." Shendar added that the prosecution could not publish many of the details and evidence in the case to protect the privacy of the witnesses who had testified against the former president.
Monday's spotlight, however, was stolen by Katsav's lawyers, Avigdor Feldman, Zion Amir and Avraham Lavie, who submitted a highly emotional response to the petitions in which they accused the public and the media of convicting their client in a kangaroo court.
"The worst of the villains, mass murderers, those who have committed crimes against humanity, vile murderers of children, serial rapists, and drug traffickers who poison the souls of entire communities, are entitled to and have received fair trials, whereas [Katsav] has been thrown to the dogs for his blood to be licked as they licked the blood of King Ahab," the attorneys wrote.
"It was the eyes of the respondents [Mazuz and the defense attorneys] and not those of the petitioners who saw the evidence, their ears and not those of the petitioners who heard the oral arguments during the hearing," they continued. "All that the petitioners saw and heard was the kangaroo court that has been conducted for Katsav over the past year and in which, perhaps, some of them even participated. We don't think anyone can disagree that the verdict against Katsav was handed down long ago by the media. He has been publicly cast out with revulsion, and all of this before the indictment has even been served.
"The campaign of incitement has been conducted with greater force over the past few days. Everyone flings stones, filth and garbage at Katsav. The media acts as one to wound his pride and his human identity, as if he were the worst of the lowest of villains, and all of this before the verdict has been handed down and even after the attorney-general said there was not enough evidence to file an indictment on the more serious charges."
Feldman, Amir and Lavie wrote that the situation was reminiscent of burnings at the stake during medieval times. They added that in their opinion, the hearing that Mazuz granted the defense was the turning point in the investigation.
"As opposed to the arguments of the petitioners regarding the dramatic change in the position of the prosecution, we believe the change should be praised and not cursed. It is a change we should hope for in every case," they said.
The lawyers added that should the High Court reject the plea bargain, there was no way Katsav could receive a fair trial, not only because of the public climate but also because the judges in his trial would not be able to forget that he had already pleaded guilty to some of the charges.
They also stressed that Katsav intended to plead guilty in court during the hearing on the plea bargain and would not claim, as he has done in public, that he accepted the arrangement because he was tired of the struggle and because he wanted to protect his family. "[Katsav] declares that he intends to plead guilty to the charges included in the amended indictment before the court, while asking it to accept all its elements," the lawyers wrote. "In this acknowledgment, [Katsav] takes full responsibility for his guilty plea regarding all the crimes, including the portion of the indictment which states the facts."
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