Court removes gag order on Katsav case

Testimony claims that Katsav's friend asked Aleph to be president's mistress.

katsav speaking 298 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
katsav speaking 298 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The High Court of Justice accepted a recommendation by Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz and ruled Thursday in favor of the prosecution, removing a gag order on an appeal that was made earlier in the week by one of former president Moshe Katsav's accusers. Aleph, one of the complainants in the sexual crimes case against the former president, had asked that a plea bargain signed with Katsav be cancelled. At 5 p.m. the prosecution is expected to publish its response to Aleph's petition and six other appeals made to the High Court to cancel Katsav's plea bargain. The prosecution, along with Mazuz, argued that the "public's interest" in a fair and open discussion pertaining to the issue of the former president outweighed any considerations in favor of imposing a gag order on the case. Only Aleph's name will still remain a secret. Meanwhile, from testimony published earlier Thursday by the High Court, it emerged that Uri Yoeli, an old friend of Katsav, met Aleph and asked her to be Katsav's mistress instead of the another lover that the president no longer liked. A repulsed Aleph said that the request was insulting and left the room. The Israel Police still believes its investigators built a strong enough case against Katsav to go to trial, according to police sources. Katsav, during his first television interview since the plea bargain, emphasized Tuesday over and over that "90 percent of allegations were thrown into the waste paper basket." He chalked the plea bargain up to the fact that insufficient evidence had been gathered to prosecute him on the greater offenses, such as the infamous rape allegation. But within the police, officers are certain that this is not the case. In many instances, the investigative team had enough concrete evidence to prosecute Katsav. The choice not to, however, was made in the Attorney-General's Office - and not, as Katsav's attorneys claim, due to lack of evidence, but rather to a lack of desire to drag the former president through a long trial that could end with a jail sentence. In fact, the explanation offered by Mazuz does seem a bit contradictory: on the one hand, the attorney-general said that the evidence was not sufficient to guarantee a victory in court, but on the other hand, he also said that he was concerned at the precedent of a former president serving a jail sentence. So which was it? Did the attorney-general think the case was too weak to win in court? Or was he afraid to send Katsav to jail, a concern that indicates that he thought that the prosecution could, in fact, win the case? The questions only increase in light of the attorney-general's now-infamous announcement in January that detectives had gathered enough evidence to indict the president on all of the sex crimes charges, including rape. To the police, the change in tone from January to June smells of political considerations rather than evidentiary instability. The answer that Mazuz did not clearly read the case material until Katsav's lawyers presented him with discrepancies in the women's testimony does not seem to have gone over well with Israel's thin blue wall. But the police officer who could best untangle the mass of evidence, who met with Mazuz about the details of the case file long before the January announcement, remains elusive. Lt.-Cmdr. Yoav Segelovich, the commander of the police investigation into the allegations against Katsav, is one of the few key players in the case to have maintained silence. And whether Mazuz misunderstood, did not see, or simply caved in to political concerns when it came to the indictment against Katsav, he and Segelovich need to figure out how to solve these problems together, to avoid them in the future. Because even as this legal drama is playing out its last act, the two also must work together in the final stages of the investigation against former finance minister Avraham Hirchson. That investigation has been frozen where Katsav's was in January prior to Mazuz's announcement, a hair's breadth away from indictment. But hopefully in that case, if the long-awaited indictment is filed - as police have already said it will - it will stand without any last-minute surprises.