AG: Katsav hearing to be held ASAP

"Ometz" watchdog group calls on Mazuz to hold the hearing quickly.

mazuz speaks 298.88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
mazuz speaks 298.88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
President Moshe Katsav's hearing will be held "as soon as possible and within a reasonable amount of time," with the date set right after his lawyers see how much investigative material there is for them to study in order to prepare, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz said Thursday. Mazuz was responding to a letter sent earlier in the day by the watchdog organization Ometz, calling on him to hold the hearing quickly. He told Ometz chairman Aryeh Avneri that the amount of time granted the lawyers to prepare for the hearing was a function of the amount of material compiled in the investigation which they had to learn. Mazuz added that the material would be handed over to Katsav's lawyers, David Liba'i and Zion Amir, at the beginning of next week. Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry on Thursday refused to respond to three allegations Katsav made against Mazuz during his 50-minute speech the night before. However, a source familiar with the case told The Jerusalem Post Katsav was wrong on all three counts. According to the allegation, Mazuz didn't keep his word to Katsav regarding an understanding they had reached at the end of their meeting on July 5, when Katsav first raised his suspicion that he was being blackmailed by Alef, a woman who had previously worked at the president's office. During his speech on Wednesday, Katsav said Mazuz had agreed that neither one of them would disclose that they had met or what they had talked about. Mazuz broke his promise on July 9, charged Katsav. "Only Gila [Katsav's wife] and I knew about the meeting and it leaked to the media," Katsav said in his speech. "I said to him, 'Mr. Mazuz, the media got hold of a leak. He told me, 'I do not intend to confirm or deny [the meeting].' I thought that was the right way to handle it, and when the media approached me, I did not deny and did not confirm. But the next day, Mazuz was in the Knesset and made a statement to the media about the substance of the meeting, contrary to what he had told me the day before." According to the source, the two had, indeed, agreed to be discreet about the July 5 meeting. However, after the story broke on Channel 2 on July 8, Beit Hanassi issued a statement saying Katsav had not complained to Mazuz about blackmail and that the meeting between them had been one of the periodic meetings the two held on a routine basis. In doing so, Katsav had actually lied and Mazuz did not want to be involved in a lie, the source said. Therefore, the following day, Mazuz told reporters that he and the president had met to discuss the alleged threats by a former employee in the president's office. According to Katsav's second allegation, Mazuz stated publicly during an interview with Channel 10 television that the suspicions against the president were not based on a conspiracy. Ever since the affair began, and particularly during his speech on Wednesday, Katsav has insisted that the media, politicians, the police, the state prosecution and the women who complained about his conduct, conspired to bring him down. Thus, for Mazuz to have contradicted that claim while the investigation was still going on was a blow to his appeal for public support. According to the sources, Mazuz's Channel 10 interviewers asked him about the possibility of a conspiracy after Katsav and his close aides had declared that the allegations against him "were the result of a conspiracy by a bunch of criminals who decided to topple the president." Mazuz replied that he did not have the impression that there was a conspiracy because of the large number of women who had complained about his conduct. "Talk of a conspiracy is routinely raised by suspects, but in most cases, whether the allegations lead to an indictment or not, it has nothing to do with conspiracies," he said. Mazuz added that even assuming there was no conspiracy, "that does not mean that we are sure of an indictment." Katsav also declared that he had expected Mazuz to order police to conduct a secret investigation into Alef's alleged blackmail threats and was surprised when he did not do so. He implied that Mazuz's failure to order a secret investigation gave those involved time to tamper with the evidence and cover their tracks. However, the source said it was impossible to hold a secret investigation, because rumors of the alleged relationship between Katsav and Alef had been in the air for weeks before the meeting between Mazuz and the president. In fact, a few days before Katsav asked to meet Mazuz, the offices of both had been flooded with questions by reporters about whether the attorney-general planned to investigate sexual harassment allegations against Katsav. There was no way such an investigation could have been kept secret, the source said. "Aleph," the first woman mentioned in the sexual allegations affair involving Katsav, on Thursday sued one of the president's closest friends, Amnon Shomron, for libel after he claimed she had been a prostitute at one point in her life. Shomron made the allegation during an interview on Army Radio the previous day. In the suit, submitted to Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, Aleph's lawyer, Kineret Barashi, wrote that her client "was never a prostitute and never provided sexual services of any kind in return for money. [Shomron] does not know [Aleph] and has never met her. Nevertheless, he decided brazenly and thoughtlessly to besmirch her good name in public and threw garbage of the lowest kind on her as if it were nothing." In the interview, Shomron said, "I tell you this is how she made her money. I know she did it. She came from that kind of background."