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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Representatives of more than 20 women's organizations and 30 victims of sexual abuse, assault and rape gathered outside the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem on Tuesday to make sure their demand to overturn the plea bargain reached between Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz and former president Moshe Katsav was heard.
"It is clear that the plea bargain reached is not fully legal," Dorit Abramovitch, coordinator of the Coalition of Women's Organizations, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview. "We are very optimistic that our petitions will be successful and we have been overwhelmed by the amount of public support for our cause."
High Court slams Mazuz plea bargain decision
Abramovitch said, however, that the Knesset's and the government's attitudes towards sex offenders, especially those of high public standing, seems to be moving in the wrong direction in recent months.
"The government continues to do what it wants," she said, adding that some of the sexual abuse victims at the protest were becoming desperate.
"They are worried that if the plea bargain is accepted it will grant legitimacy to all sex offenders to continue doing what they are doing," said Abramovitch, herself a victim of incest. "Already in the last two weeks we have seen two rapists being given lighter sentences, and the phenomenon will only get increase."
The five-judge panel headed by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch failed to rule Tuesday on the six petitions asking to freeze the plea bargain until the court examines the merits of the arrangement; Abramovitch said that women's groups would continue to demonstrate.
"It seems that even the judges are not convinced by the evasiveness of the defense's argument," said attorney Tziona Koenig Yair, executive director of the Israel Women's Network, which was one of the groups petitioning the court. "In the hour and a half of argument, the attorney-general did not manage to explain in a reasonable manner how an initial indictment of rape had been turned into a slap on the wrist that might even allow the president to return to public life in several years."
"The public support shown for our fight has been unbelievable," said Abramovitch, adding that the number of female sexual abuse and rape victims to come forward to demonstrate had been steadily growing. "In the past they did not want to step forward, but now they realize that they have to speak up for themselves," she said.
The petitions filed to the High Court include one submitted jointly by the Movement for Quality Government, the Israel Women's Network, Kolech, the Association of Rape Crisis Centers, WIZO and Na'amat. Two others were filed by attorneys Eitan Peleg and Yoel Eden; two more were from the lawyers representing "Beit Hanassi Aleph," who accuses Katsav of raping her, and from another woman identified as "Kaf" who accuses Katsav of sexual misconduct.
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