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A panel of three High Court justices began to hear on Tuesday morning six petitions calling on it to grant an interim injunction preventing the attorney-general from filing the indictment against former president Moshe Katsav and the plea bargain he reached with Katsav's attorneys to Jerusalem Magistrate's Court.
The panel includes Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and Justices Reuven Rivlin and Ayala Procaccia.
The petitioners are calling on the court to throw out the agreement, which includes heavily watered-down charges against Katsav compared with the original draft indictment that Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz announced, on January 23, that he was thinking of filing.
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The original indictment included two charges of rape, committing an indecent act without the consent of the victim, forbidden sexual intercourse by exploiting authority and three charges of sexual harassment. All told, four women, including the "first Aleph" and the "second Aleph," were included as Katsav's victims.
However, the indictment that is due to be submitted to the Magistrate's Court (unless the High Court rules otherwise) includes one charge of committing an indecent act without consent by using pressure and charges of sexual harassment and harassment of a witness. The charges against the other two women, including the "first Aleph," were dropped.
According to the original indictment, Katsav faced a maximum of 16 years in jail for each of the two rape charges alone. According to the final indictment, he is liable to 10 years in jail for all of the charges, but the prosecution and the defense have agreed to recommend a sentence of one year in jail suspended.
In response to the plea bargain, several individuals and organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice against the plea bargain between Mazuz and Katsav's lawyers, Avigdor Feldman and Zion Amir. One of the petitions was submitted by the Movement for Quality Government (MQG), the Women's Network, Kolech, the Association of Aid Organizations for Victims of Sexual Crimes, Wizo and Na'amat. Two others were filed by private attorneys Eitan Peleg and Yoel Eden. Two more were filed by the "first Aleph," who is represented by attorneys Kineret Barashi and Yehuda Ressler, and the last was filed by another woman who accused Katsav of sexual misconduct. She was identified as "Kaf" and is represented by attorney Orna Linn.
In the petition by the MQG and the women's organization, the petitioners charged that Mazuz's change of mind between January and June was extremely unreasonable given the fact that the original indictment had been drafted after serious consideration and extensive consultation.
In its response, the state argued that the evidence against Katsav had undergone "an evolutionary process of continuous erosion" from the time the original indictment was drafted and that the state's case had become "borderline."
If the court accepts the request for an interim injunction, the state will be prohibited from filing the indictment against Katsav until the justices rule on the main section of the petitions. If it rejects the requests, the court will still hear the petition.
In the meantime, however, the state will be allowed to file the indictment in Jerusalem Magistrate's Court and the plea bargain will go into effect. The Magistrate's Court, however, may ignore the recommendation for the sentence filed by the state and the defense and hand down its own sentence in accordance with the provisions of the law.