Katsav legal team sticks to ‘consensual’ defense

Supreme Court Justices expected to rule on the case in around 3 months - if his appeal is rejected, the former president faces 7 years.

katsav appeal 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
katsav appeal 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Former president Moshe Katsav arrived at the Supreme Court on Thursday for the third and final day in his appeal.
He was accompanied for the first time by his wife, Gila, and other family members. In previous court sessions, Katsav’s wife had stayed at their home in Kiryat Malachi.
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Throughout Thursday’s hearing, the former head of state looked dour as he wrote notes on a yellow pad and passed them to his defense team.
Katsav was convicted in December of two counts of rape, two counts of sexual harassment, an indecent act using force, and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.
In May, Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger stayed Katsav’s punishment until his appeal process is complete.
Katsav’s appeal hinges on Supreme Court Justices Miriam Naor, Edna Arbel and Salim Joubran accepting his lawyers’ new line of defense that he had consensual sexual relations with “Alef” from the Tourism Ministry.
When Danziger ruled to stay Katsav’s punishment, he identified several judicial rulings by the district court that could lead to his acquittal on the rape charges, should the Supreme Court determine that the rulings were improper.
The most crucial ruling was that the district court judges refused to accept Katsav’s defense attorneys’ second line of defense, in which they argued that the former president had had consensual sexual relations with Alef.
Throughout the trial, Katsav denied having any sexual relations with Alef. As a result, the judges decided not to consider that line of defense.
In Thursday’s hearing, Katsav’s attorney Avigdor Feldman reiterated to the court that the former president did not rape Alef.
Feldman termed Alef’s version of what happened a “puzzle,” the pieces of which had been arranged by her to show a picture of a rape.
Feldman claimed, however, that Alef’s behavior pointed to a different reality in which no rapes had taken place.
Her behavior indicated that her relationship with Katsav went beyond a professional relationship, he said.
Instead, Katsav’s defense team suggested that the former president and Alef had a romance – even though both have consistently denied this.
Feldman began by arguing that Alef’s allegation of the rape she says took place in the Sheraton Hotel in Jerusalem in June 1998 was problematic.
According to Alef, the hotel rape took place two months after Katsav had raped her in his office. She testified that he asked her to come to the Sheraton to review documents in the lobby, but then invited her to a hotel room, where he raped her.
Feldman asked why Alef would have agreed to meet Katsav in a hotel room two months after she he allegedly raped her in his office.
Instead, the lawyer posited “an evolving system that began with consent, at least partial, and which perhaps continued in the incident in the Tourism Ministry – which we say was never proven – continued at the hotel and resulted in sexual intercourse.”
In an attempt to undermine the credibility of Alef’s testimony, Katsav’s defense team prepared a detailed timeline of events surrounding the rape that Alef said took place in the Jerusalem hotel.
That timeline is based mostly on telephone conversations that Alef made or received before and immediately after the time she said the rape took place.
Alef’s conduct, as evidenced in part by these phone calls, indicates that she was not “traumatized” by a rape, as she had claimed, Feldman argued.
Alef testified that she walked to the Sheraton and immediately went to Katsav’s room, Feldman said. The defense said she answered a call on her cellphone at 6:16 p.m., and then another from the Tourism Ministry three minutes later.
“According to Alef’s version, she was already in the room when these calls took place,” said Feldman. “She was in the room, but none of the things she said happened there really took place, because she had a 50-second phone call there.”
Feldman also pointed to calls that Alef took shortly after the time she claimed the rape occurred.
“We need to view Alef’s behavior as evidence that a rape didn’t take place,” Feldman told the court. “Why did she answer those calls?” He later raised the issue of “erotic phone calls” between Alef and Katsav, and of several late-night phone calls between the two, including when Katsav was abroad.
He rejected the prosecution’s claim that Alef had not participated willingly in those calls, and argued that they were evidence of a consensual relationship between the two.
According to Feldman, Alef called Katsav when he was in Portugal, and the two talked for eight minutes.
Joubran interjected and told Feldman that perhaps the call had been work related.
“I call my secretary when I’m abroad, but never at half-past midnight,” retorted Feldman.
“What did [Alef] have to talk about in those calls unless there was an intimate relationship? Does this not indicate that there was a relationship above and beyond a work relationship?” Feldman added that had Alef not wanted to receive latenight calls from Katsav, she could have just hung up the phone.
“All this flies in the face of Alef’s testimony that there were two rapes,” he said.
When Joubran pointed out that Katsav had not given any explanation for these calls, Feldman said that Katsav was presumed innocent, and it should be up to Alef to show beyond reasonable doubt that her version was true.
One issue that was repeatedly raised during the three-day appeal is the role of the media in Katsav’s rape trial in the Tel Aviv District Court.
Katsav’s defense team railed against the media on several occasions, claiming that journalists had demonized, humiliated and defamed him.
In court on Thursday, Katsav defense attorney Avi Lavie said that one of the complainants against Katsav, “Alef Kaf” from the Transportation Ministry, did not testify against the former president until after she read an interview with Alef in a newspaper.
Following the hearing, Katsav refused to speak to reporters, but his attorney Zion Amir consented to an interview.
Amir responded to questions on whether Katsav’s defense team said the former president had lied in his earlier testimony when he denied having sexual relations with Alef.
“At no stage did anyone argue that Mr. Katsav lied, at no stage did anyone argue that he did not tell the truth,” Amir said. “What was presented in court was a legal claim.
“I have learned there is a huge chasm between what attorneys say in a courtroom and what the media publishes,” he added scathingly.
The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling on the appeal in about three months.
Ron Friedman contributed to this report.