Decision on early release for former president Katsav delayed till Wednesday

Katsav seeks to get out after serving approximately two-thirds of a seven-year sentence for rape.

Former president of Israel Moshe Katsav (photo credit: REUTERS)
Former president of Israel Moshe Katsav
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Parole Board on Sunday gave Wednesday as a more solid date for when it will decide on former president Moshe Katsav’s request for early release from prison, now that he has served two-thirds of a seven-year sentence for rape.
There was controversy during Sunday’s hearing about whether the rehabilitation professionals would reverse their recommendation from the first hearing held last week in which they opposed Katsav’s early release, but ultimately they did not.
There is still a small chance that Wednesday will see another hearing without a decision, if the Parole Board presses the rehabilitation professionals to explain their evolving internal deliberations.
In contrast, the prosecution never wavered, saying as long as Katsav did not express regret and admit his wrongdoing, he could not be released early from Ma’asiyahu Prison in Ramle no matter how good his behavior was.
Little was reported from either hearing, but Katsav burst into tears during last week’s closed-door hearing.
The key factors for Parole Board decisions generally are: the prisoner’s behavior in jail; absence of danger to commit future offenses; extent of rehabilitation; and the public interest. Presiding over the parole board is retired judge Moshe Mechlis, who is joined by a sociologist and a psychologist.
During last week’s 12-hour hearing, the prosecution likely said that the former head of state’s refusal to take responsibility for his actions meant he did not go through the prison’s rehabilitation program for sex offenders.
Furthermore, they likely argued that an early release would add harm to his victims and send the wrong message to the public about the severity of sexual offenses.
Katsav’s lawyers had been expected to rest their plea for an early release on his good behavior in prison, his worsening health, age (70) and an argument that he is no danger to society.
Along those lines, they were to have argued that his offenses were connected to his power as president of the state, an office he will never return to.
Katsav was convicted of two counts of rape, one count of committing an indecent act using force, one count of committing an indecent act, two counts of sexual harassment, one count of harassing a witness and one count of obstructing justice. He entered Ma’asiyahu in December 2011.
Controversy erupted regarding his parole request in early March, with rumors that Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and President Reuven Rivlin were pushing for an early release and implying that the eighth president’s sentence would be commuted if the Parole Board did not release him.
Following the reports, however, Rivlin’s spokeswoman issued a statement of clarification saying that he has not supported the idea of giving clemency to Katsav, and will discuss the possibility only if the matter comes up in an appeal directed to his office.
Even then, he will not make a decision without consulting with the Justice Ministry and taking into account all the relevant factors, as all his predecessors have done when appeals for clemency or pardons were put to them, she said.
Similarly, Shaked’s spokeswoman has said that, contrary to reports, she has not yet taken a position on the matter. Rather, she views the issue as not having arrived on her desk, and she will not prejudge or try to sway the Parole Board’s decision.
In response to the possibility that Katsav’s sentence might be commuted, Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On and Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai proposed a bill under which a president who wants to pardon a criminal would have to consult with the sentencing court.
Lahav Harkov and Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.