Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday released the full version of the verdict in the trial of former president Moshe Katsav, after rejecting a motion by his lawyers to either remove most of the passages blacked out by the judges or not to publish the full decision altogether. The verdict includes 324 pages.
According to a statement issued after the publication by the Justice Ministry, some media outlets ignored the court order and published segments of the verdict that had been prohibited by the court.
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Katsav was convicted on December 30 of committing two counts of rape, two counts of sexual harassment, an indecent act using force, and obstruction of justice.
At the end of the hearing, the court released a 25-page abbreviated version of the full ruling, which provided the basic facts of the court’s unanimous decision and the reasoning behind it.
Now, it has released the full ruling, after blacking out small parts of the text which could allegedly reveal the identity of the women who complained against Katsav or seriously intrude on their privacy or the privacy of others.
Despite the sections that have been made unreadable, and they are relatively few, the full version of the ruling does not bring to light new information as much as it provides far greater detail about the reasoning of the judges, the testimony in court and the events themselves.
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In the first section of the ruling, Judges George Karra, Miriam Sokolov and Yehudit Shevach explained why they rejected the defense’s argument to cancel the trial even before it began because of a series of events that were certain to prejudice the outcome or render the trial unjust for other reasons. These included the allegedly biased reporting of the media against Katsav, tendentious leaks from the police and the fact that the prosecution allegedly told the High Court of Justice that it did not have enough evidence to be certain of a conviction, and then, after Katsav reneged on the plea bargain, prosecuted him on the very same evidence.
The rest of the ruling, which takes up 300 pages, is devoted to the four charges against Katsav, including the most serious one, namely the two counts of rape, perpetrated against “Aleph.” Aleph was head of Katsav’s bureau when he served as tourism minister in the first government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was elected in 1996.
According to the judges, Aleph’s character played an important role in explaining her behavior during and after Katsav’s sexual attacks, and the reasons why it took so long for her to complain to the police about his conduct.
“Aleph is the kind of person who wants to satisfy others,” they wrote. “Her nature to please others, together with the conservative education she received from her parents, and her feeling that she was dependent for her livelihood on the kind of relationship she had with the defendant caused her to continue behaving respectfully towards him. This is reflected in her statement that, ‘despite the things he did, I continued to treat him with respect, as ridiculous as this may sound.’” Aleph’s situation may have been somewhat complicated by the fact that she was known as a strict boss, who worked the secretaries hard and preferred to be in control of all aspects of the work. She was not popular among her employees and Katsav later used this as one of his reasons for firing her.
The two rape incidents, and another incident involving Katsav at Aleph’s home, took place in 1998, not long after she began working for him. But it was only eight years later, and not at her own initiative, that she told police of these incidents. Even then, it took many interrogations before her full story emerged.
The defense used these facts to argue that Aleph had made up the entire story after seeing that other women had complained about him. The reason for this was her desire to get revenge on Katsav for firing her.
However, according to the judges, the evidence of several witnesses disproved the defense’s contention.
In 1999-2000, Aleph complained to a friend of hers, Yaron Armoza, about Katsav, though she did not mention rape. When Katsav was nominated for the presidency, Armoza arranged separate meetings between her and two journalists, Adar Primor and Gidi Weitz. During the trial, Primor testified in court that he received the impression that she had retreated at the last moment and could not bring herself to tell her story.
Had she been willing to talk then, she could have hurt Katsav by causing a scandal that would have ended his election hopes.
In the end, Armoza himself informed the police that he knew someone who had been sexually harassed by Katsav. Yoav Segilovich, who was head of the police team investigating the affair, invited her in for questioning.
Thus, the judges wrote, “without any advanced psychological preparation and completely unexpectedly, late at night, Aleph was brought to the police for interrogation. All the police knew from Armoza was that Aleph was sexually harassed by the defendant. There was no information about rape or anything close to that.”
At that first interrogation, Aleph talked about the incident at the Tourism Ministry office in Tel Aviv but refused to divulge whether Katsav had actually penetrated her, even though police asked her point blank about this.
She also made no mention of the incident in the hotel or at her home, where Katsav tried to force himself on her for the first time. It was only at the second interrogation that she described Katsav’s act in the Tel Aviv office as rape.
She also explained why she had been unable to admit it the first time.
“I was afraid… I didn’t know whether you would leak it or not. I don’t trust the police. There have been leaks in the past. I was afraid of it. It is a very sensitive topic. I thought somehow it would get out. It is not very pleasant. It makes one feel bad. So I didn’t want to tell you, but I didn’t want you to think it didn’t happen, and that he gets off cleanly… The fact is that he did do it.”
The defense charged that each time Aleph added something new to her testimony, it was because she had just made it up. But according to the judges, “It was an unfolding testimony, one which reveals one small part after another, in the way that is typical of victims of sexual attack who have repressed their testimony for a long time. Not only that, but we will see that the details Aleph gave the police at a later stage had already been given to others at an earlier one, much earlier than the police interrogation.”
One of the turning points in Aleph’s testimony was her meeting with MK Shelly Yacimovich, which Armoza also arranged. For the first time ever, Aleph told someone everything that Katsav had done to her.
During the trial, Yacimovich testified that after vaguely describing the events at Katsav’s Tel Aviv office, Aleph told her, “‘But you know, it wasn’t only that.’ So I said, ‘What do you mean, ‘it wasn’t only that?’” She said, ‘He did… there were other things.’ So I asked her what things. She stopped, went back to another story and then came back to it again. ‘You know, in the office he did the thing, he went all the way,’ she said. She was searching all the time for the words. It took her time to say the word ‘rape.’ Penetration was something she could not say.”
At the next police interrogation, Aleph told the police she had been raped during the incident.
It took another five months until Aleph revealed the rape at the hotel in Jerusalem. Once again, she described the same emotional difficulties in revealing the incident.
The defense challenged these descriptions. Had they been true, it claimed, Aleph could not possibly have continued working for Katsav. Yet, in fact, she went on for several months, until Katsav fired her.
Aleph explained her conduct to the court.
“For one thing, I repressed it. Secondly, I had an economic problem. And I didn’t think it would happen again. I’m talking about after the second incident. I had work and I came to work. I simply repressed it and didn’t deal with it. From that point of view, it was erased, it hadn’t happened. I didn’t think about it at all. I came and was completely immersed in work. Had I faced the situation… perhaps I wouldn’t have come to work. I would have stopped working. But no.”
The court also referred to a series of testimonies by acquaintances to whom she shared or hinted at a few details of Katsav’s conduct. In one case, the former deputy director-general for marketing in the Tourism Ministry, Shmuel Tzurel, testified that she had told him Katsav had sexually harassed her. The court found Tzurel’s testimony reliable.
Another witness was Armoza’s former wife, Michal Sela, who served as head of the Rape Crisis Center in Jerusalem. Sela testified that Armoza had told her about Aleph and asked her to speak to Aleph. The discussion took place on June 18, 2000, and Sela recorded it in the organization’s diary. In one of the key sections of the verdict, the judges describe what they defined as “the defendant’s system of bringing his victims close and harassing them, then distancing them, cutting them off from authority and humiliating them.”
Aleph described the first period as the time when Katsav made her a queen. During that time, he praised her in public and made it clear to everyone that she had his full backing. However, there was a price to be paid for these favors. He expected her to respond to his sexual advances.
The defense challenged this description of her “reign,” arguing that there was no way to reconcile the fact that felt like a queen and, at the same time, was being sexually harassed and worse by Katsav. The only logical explanation was that she loved Katsav and welcomed his advances.
Aleph argued that “one does not contradict the other. There were
humiliations when it came to sex and there were humiliations outside of
sex. I said that regarding the sexual humiliations, at least the major
ones, I didn’t face them in any way. I sealed them up in my heart…
Regarding the other humiliations [i.e. after Aleph refused to have sex
with Katsav], first of all, other people witnessed them and I also
experienced them in a different way. So they were harder for me and that
was the reason I asked [Shaul Hilleli] to try and talk to him. It isn’t
that one kind was more humiliating than the other or vice versa; they
were simply different kinds of humiliations.”
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