Feldman to try to convince court Katsav trial unfair

Former president's attorney's appeal to the Supreme Court will include that his defendant could not receive a fair trail.

By DAN IZENBERG
January 3, 2011 03:25
3 minute read.
Former president Moshe Katsav in courthouse

katsav enters court 311. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

Former president Moshe Katsav’s appeal to the Supreme Court will include the defense’s preliminary argument in the lower court that the trial should be canceled because the defendant could not get a fair trial, his attorney Avigdor Feldman told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

Feldman and his partners, attorneys Zion Amir and Avraham Lavie, had charged that Katsav did not stand a chance of acquittal from the outset because the panel of three judges in the Tel Aviv District Court had been influenced by unfair external circumstances such as the allegedly hostile coverage of the affair by the media.

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Meanwhile, attorney Rachel Toren, head of the Israel Bar’s Forum on Criminal Affairs, said the “defense by justice” argument was the only innovative development in an otherwise standard sex trial in which the court must decide between conflicting stories on the basis of which side appears more credible.

In addition to the allegedly unfair media coverage, Katsav’s lawyers maintained that police, the State Attorney’s Office and the Attorney-General’s Office had leaked information designed to make Katsav look bad, and that some of the women who complained against the former president had granted pre-trial interviews to the media to present their allegations.

Although the court, headed by Judge George Karra, rejected the “defense by justice” argument in the specific case of Katsav, both Feldman and Toren felt he had left open the possibility that such an argument might be accepted under different circumstances in the future.

In the brief decision released to the public, the judges focused on the media-bias argument and went a long way to accept the defense’s allegations. “In this argument, the defense tried to force their way past an open door. [We agree] that in this matter, the line was crossed in an unprecedented manner, given the summary trial the defendant was treated to in the court of the media.



“At first sight, the media does indeed appear to have inflicted serious damage on achieving justice and therefore consideration should be given to canceling the trial. However, it was not by chance that we said ‘at first sight, because of the identical conduct of the defendant and his attorneys, who also did not keep their distance from the media, did not stay away from the television studios and gave as good as they got,” the decision read.

Toren said that according to the court’s argument, had it believed that Katsav had not tried to manipulate the media, it might very well have canceled the trial, as the defense had requested.

Feldman said he hoped to convince the Supreme Court that this was indeed the case. “How could one individual fight back against the entire media,” he said.

On another matter, Toren said many lawyers were critical of the court for presenting such a one-sided ruling in favor of the state. “Even if the court does not believe the arguments of one of the sides, it should paint a grey picture and not one that is black and white,” she said.

She also said that in the final analysis, the Katsav case boiled down to one of credibility, as do most cases involving sexual allegations, where there are no witnesses, and the court must believe either one side or the other. In such cases, appeals against the lower ruling are almost always rejected since it is only the lower court that has the opportunity to question the witnesses and obtain a first-hand impression of them and their arguments.


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