High Court rejects Katsav case petition

Social groups petitioned court to hold another debate on ex-president's plea bargain deal.

Katsav 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Katsav 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The trial of former president Moshe Katsav will open on Wednesday in the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, following the Supreme Court's rejection on Monday of several petitioners' requests to hold a second hearing before an expanded panel. Supreme Court Justice Miriam Na'or wrote that the petitioners - the Movement for Quality Government, the Women's Network, Kolech, the Association of Rape Crisis Centers, WIZO and Na'amat - had failed to prove that the verdict of the panel of five justices who rejected the petitions the first time around had introduced a new legal principle. According to the law, this would be the only grounds for holding a second hearing before an expanded court. "The petitioners," wrote Na'or, "are dissatisfied with the outcome of the [original] verdict, but the question of holding a second hearing is a legal question. It is not meant to be used to change a concrete decision by establishing a larger panel that might decide otherwise. A second hearing is not an appeal against the first verdict, and the principle of the finality of a case is important." As tension builds toward Wednesday's hearing, another dramatic dimension has been added with the news that Katsav's lawyers will cross-examine Tourism Ministry Aleph, the key witness in the police investigation of the sexual allegations against the former president. Originally, the state had considered charging Katsav with two counts of rape against Tourism Ministry Aleph. In the end, however, it reached a plea bargain with Katsav's lawyers - Zion Amir, Avigdor Feldman and Avraham Lavi - and sufficed with charges of committing an indecent act without consent through the use of pressure and sexual harassment against Tourism Ministry Aleph, and harassing another witness who worked in Beit Hanassi. Several days ago, however, Yediot Aharonot reported that Tourism Ministry Aleph had filed a "victim's affidavit" with the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court in accordance with a provision of the Victims of Crime Law. According to the affidavit as described by the newspaper, Tourism Ministry Aleph said she had been traumatized by the sexual acts Katsav had committed against her, and found it hard to be with men ever since. She wrote that she still bore the psychological scars of that period and continued to see a psychologist as a result. The affidavit is meant to provide information for the judges, who are due to rule on the plea bargain. Although Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz and Katsav's lawyers agreed to recommend that the former president be given a suspended sentence and serve no time in jail, the court has the right to hand down the punishment it sees fit, as long as it does so on the basis of the facts included in the indictment and within the limits of the law. Katsav's lawyers have already announced that they intend to cross-examine Tourism Ministry Aleph. The questioning is bound to be tough, since its outcome could determine whether or not Katsav will go to jail. Another dramatic element in the trial is the state's request that the judges determine that Katsav's crimes involve moral turpitude. Should the court accede to the request, Katsav will lose an annual income of about NIS 1.1 million. The question of whether to determine that the crimes involved moral turpitude was not considered by Katsav's lawyers and the state in the plea bargain.