(photo credit: ariel jerozolimski)
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz on Thursday presented to the High Court of Justice extensive details from the evidence regarding the two key witnesses in the sexual misconduct affair involving Moshe Katsav to defend his decision to sign a plea bargain with the former president.
At the same time, Mazuz asked for a court gag to prevent publication of these details.
The details were included in the state's response to a show-cause order issued by the court regarding the six petitions, most of which called upon Mazuz to drop the plea bargain and indict Katsav on the more serious charges Mazuz had considered filing last February.
In issuing the show-cause order, the court asked Mazuz to answer four questions raised by the petitioners:
Why did Mazuz decide to close the file and not indict Katsav on any charges regarding the witness A-1 (from Beit Hanassi)?
Why did Mazuz reach a plea bargain agreement with Katsav?
Why should the statute of limitations not have been suspended during Katsav's years as president, since he could not be put on trial during that period. Had the statues been suspended, Katsav could now be charged with sexual intercourse or indecent acts with consent by exploiting his authority in the case of A-2 (from the Tourism Ministry.)
â€¢Why should the plea bargain not be cancelled because Mazuz allegedly did not give the witnesses who complained to police against Katsav a fair chance to say whether or not they favored the plea bargain.
Mazuz, represented by Shai Nitzan, head of the Special Tasks Section of the State Attorney's Office, Attorney Dina Silver and his legal aide, Ran Nizri, devoted much time to explain why the evidence in the cases of A-1 and A-2 was problematic.
As a result of these problems, Mazuz and his team decided to drop the charges against Katsav in the case of A-1, even though the original draft of the indictment in January 2007 had included serious charges.
As for A-2, Mazuz's attorneys wrote that the state was certain it could prove charges of sexual intercourse or indecent acts by consent by exploiting authority, but the statute of limitations applied to these crimes. Mazuz could have charged Katsav with rape or committing indecent acts. However, he knew he would have a hard time proving that Katsav had used force and was therefore hesitant about pressing these charges.
Precisely at that time, Katsav and his lawyers, Avigdor Feldman and Zion Amir, suggested a plea bargain and the state agreed.
The decision to accept the plea bargain solution was supported unanimously by the entire team of prosecutors who had dealt with the case. Mazuz's attorneys also rejected the argument that the statute of limitations was suspended throughout the period of the president's term.
Finally, the state rejected the argument that it had not given the women who had complained against Katsav a fair hearing regarding their opinions about the plea bargain. The attorneys maintained that the prosecution had scrupulously fulfilled its obligations according to the law.
The law allowed victims of crimes to express their opinions in writing, the attorneys wrote. In this case, the prosecution had allowed the victims to express their views directly face to face. "The prosecution's final decision to accept the plea bargain was only taken after the relevant witnesses had expressed their opinions and their arguments had been clearly understood by the prosecution," wrote Mazuz's attorneys.