Katsav attorney: Entire media enlisted against my client

"There was aggressive campaign, complete enlistment of journalists. It became impossible to put out single statement, attorney Tzion Amir says.

katsav in court 311 (photo credit: AP)
katsav in court 311
(photo credit: AP)
The Israeli media as a whole enlisted in a campaign to convict former president Moshe Katsav in his sex crimes trial, a member of Katsav’s legal team said on Tuesday.
“There was an aggressive campaign, a complete enlistment of journalists. It became impossible to get a single statement into this barricade thrown up by the Israeli media over the past four years,” attorney Tzion Amir said.
Amir spoke during a panel discussion at Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Social Sciences on the role of the media in the Katsav trial.
He was joined by two other legal experts, and three journalists; Baruch Karah of Channel 10, Gadi Sukenik of Channel 2, and Yuval Yoaz from Globes.
Karah described the pride he feels about the job the Israeli media did during the Katsav affair, one that he said was highly sensitive and demanded a long, concerted effort to unearth the truth.
Amir said, “I am hearing unfathomable hypocrisy here. I can’t understand how these reporters can say that the media performed its job or honored its obligations.”
Amir, who was part of a star-studded legal team that included attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Avraham Lavie, added that since the Katsav case broke, Israel has seen “a blunt, tendentious passage of messages through the media [to the public and the courts] over the course of the past four and a half years.”
Amir said the influence of such messages manifested itself in events like a rally in Kikar Rabin early in the affair, “in which tens of thousands of protesters from women’s organizations held a protest before anyone had even seen a shred of the evidence and you have the public opinion saying, ‘We must hang this rapist,’ years before the verdict was announced.”
Amir also blasted what he called the “meddling” of parliamentarians in the case. “If an average citizen had done these sort of things they would have been charged with obstruction of justice.”
On Sunday, Feldman told The Jerusalem Post that Katsav’s appeal to the Supreme Court would include an argument made by the defense in the district court that the trial should be canceled because Katsav could not get a fair trial.
Katsav’s lawyers have contended that their client never had a chance to be found innocent because the three judges in the Tel Aviv District Court had been heavily influenced by a number of unfair external circumstances including hostile coverage of the affair by the media.
The journalists on the panel, which was at times both raucous and genial, took issue with Amir’s statements on how they performed their jobs.
Karah said that from the beginning of the case, Katsav had at his disposal “one of the largest, most expensive PR firms in Israel, which carried out very aggressive work defaming the complainants, enlisting private detectives and witnesses to degrade the character of the complainants, and getting articles published.”
Prof. Camil Fuchs discussed a study he completed with professors Ze’ev Segal and Tiki Balas titled “The Influence of the Media on Public Opinion in Regard to the Innocence or Guilt of Subjects in a Criminal Case – The Katsav Verdict as a Case Study.”
The findings of the study were released about a week before Katsav was convicted last Thursday on both counts of rape and other charges.
Only 19 percent of members of the public who had made up their mind about the case would change their opinion following the court’s decision, the study found.
Fifty-one percent of respondents said Katsav should be convicted of rape, as opposed to 16% who said he should be found innocent and 33% who were unsure.
Of the 67% who gave an opinion on Katsav’s guilt, 76% said he should be convicted of rape.
Only 26% of the modern- Orthodox and haredi public believed he is guilty as opposed to 57% of secular Israelis.