Katsav charged with 2 counts of rape

Indictment includes counts of sexual harassment, forced indecent acts and intimidating a witness.

Katsav Kiryat Malahi conference 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Katsav Kiryat Malahi conference 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The State Attorney's Office submitted a scathing indictment against former president Moshe Katsav on Thursday afternoon, more than two-and-a-half years after rumors first emerged that he had sexually assaulted an employee at Beit Hanassi. The indictment, filed at the Tel Aviv District Court, includes two counts of rape and multiple counts of sexual harassment and forced indecent acts, as well as intimidating a witness. These crimes could add up to decades of jail time for Katsav if he is convicted. The indictment concerns offenses allegedly committed against three employees - "Tourism Ministry Aleph," and "Lamed" and "Hay" from Beit Hanassi - but the witness list includes the names of an additional six women who all are expected to testify regarding similar acts for which the statute of limitations has expired for criminal prosecution. The most serious allegations concern Tourism Ministry Aleph, who, prosecutors say, was raped on two separate occasions by the then-head of state. In April 1998, while they were attending an event, Katsav allegedly told Aleph he had forgotten something at his Tel Aviv office and asked her to accompany him back to the office. When they got there, Katsav allegedly sat down next to her and fondled her breasts against her will. He then allegedly attempted to remove her pants, and while she struggled to pull them back up, he allegedly wrestled her down to the floor. "Katsav forcefully pulled the plaintiff's pants off and stripped her, although she tried unsuccessfully to prevent him," prosecutors wrote in the indictment. "Katsav opened his pants and lay down on top of the plaintiff, while his weight and his grip limited her abilities to break free. The accused inserted his sexual organ into hers." In the same month, prosecutors say, Katsav appeared at Aleph's apartment, claiming that "he wanted to see where she lived." In that incident, the indictment reads, "he approached the plaintiff, and she backed up to escape him until she was stopped by a cabinet. At that point the accused pressed his body against hers and fondled her breasts, against her will." Aleph once again attempted to push him back and told him that she was not interested in him, but in this case, as opposed to the others, Katsav allegedly left her apartment without further incident, according to the indictment. The second alleged rape occurred some months later, when Katsav told Aleph that he wanted to meet her in a Jerusalem hotel to review work materials in the lobby. When she arrived, "the accused drew close to the plaintiff, pushed her on to the bed and, although she resisted, stripped off her pants and her underwear in one pull. Aleph resisted having sex with the accused, but he did not listen to her requests or to her attempts to resist, in which she requested that he cease. The accused lay on top of the plaintiff while holding her, and although she tried to push him off with her hands, he inserted his sexual organ into her sexual organ while trying to calm her by saying, 'Calm down, you'll enjoy it,'" prosecutors wrote. Hay and Lamed from Beit Hanassi were both sexually harassed on multiple occasions in the presidential offices, prosecutors plan to say in court. According to the indictment, in a number of instances following work-related meetings, Katsav accompanied Hay to the door of his office, "and before she left the office, he grabbed her in a long embrace" - each time for 10 seconds - while pressing his body against hers. On two separate instances, the indictment states, Hay told him to stop the embraces, but they continued, as did verbal abuse "focusing on her sexuality." Katsav is also charged with committing indecent acts and sexual harassment while taking advantage of working relationships against Lamed, who was also employed at Beit Hanassi. At one point, he allegedly slapped her cheek, and while the two were working on plans for his 2005 birthday celebrations, he allegedly asked her probing personal questions. After the birthday celebration, Katsav allegedly hugged her, and in doing so, "pressed his body against hers and placed his face near her neck, as if to smell her in order to receive sexual stimulus." According to the indictment, Lamed was "shocked and frightened by the accused's actions and left the office crying." A similar incident occurred at a later occasion, prosecutors say. Katsav has also been charged with attempting to intimidate Lamed, later allegedly calling her to his office and asking her whether she remembered the events of his birthday. When she responded that she did not, "in order to influence the plaintiff to match her version of events to his, he said that at that time, he had kissed her but did it in gratitude for her hard work." He later allegedly asked her whether the police had asked her about the incident, after which she said that she did not want to talk about it, and he responded by "asking her to keep the events secret." Katsav's media adviser, attorney Amnon Shomron, said following the filing of the indictment, "It is a great pity that the attorney-general did not listen to the recommendations of five senior officials at the State Attorney's Office who recommended closing the case." The indictment had no evidence to back it, Shomron said. "Mazuz's insistence on filing the indictment despite those recommendations will be revealed in court," he said in a statement. "After the cancellation of the plea bargain, we were surprised by the indictment, but now that it has been served, we will prove Katsav's innocence in court and also prove the [existence of the] witch-hunt as well as the failures in the office of Mazuz, who apparently won't even be in his current position when the court declares Katsav innocent." On Thursday night, Justice Ministry sources confirmed that State Attorney Moshe Lador planned on "taking an active role in Katsav's prosecution, including making some appearances in the Tel Aviv courtroom." Lador chose to sign the indictment "because of the seriousness of the case, as well as the public stature of the accused," the Justice Ministry official added. The official did, however, emphasize that Lador would not be taking the lead role in the prosecution, but leaving it in the hands of Tel Aviv prosecutor Ronit Amiel. Notably missing from the list of prosecution witnesses was "Aleph from Beit Hanassi," the woman whose complaint started the landslide of claims against Katsav. The then-president inadvertently launched the affair in July 2006, when he called Mazuz to his office to complain that she was allegedly blackmailing him. Katsav's attorneys have called Beit Hanassi Aleph's credibility into question, and at one point, she submitted to a polygraph test to attempt to validate her claims. Among the witness who will be called to testify, however, are MK Shelly Yacimovich and investigative journalist Ilana Dayan.