Katsav trial could be postponed again

The trial of former president Moshe Katsav in Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, scheduled for Tuesday, may be postponed again because of a dispute between the state prosecution and Katsav's lawyer over material the defense gathered during the investigation which the defense insists on seeing. On Sunday, Katsav's lawyers, Zion Amir, Avigdor Feldman and Avraham Lavie, crossed swords with Jerusalem District prosecutor Irit Baumhorn before Judge Ron Alexander over the matter. Alexander did not hand down a decision at the end of the lengthy hearing. Even if he does so on Monday, Alexander may rule in favor of giving some or all of the missing evidence to the defense lawyers. If he does, Jerusalem Magistrate's Court will have to give them time to read it and determine how to incorporate it before the trial can start. On the one hand, Amir and Feldman reassured the court on Sunday that they were not insisting on reading the material because they hoped to find a reason to back away from the plea bargain. On the other, they kept referring to that possibility. "I want to see this material because I want to know whether the authorities conducted a clean investigation," Amir told Alexander. "The fact that the state is trying to conceal material worries me." Feldman pointed out that the Katsav case was unique in that the defense and prosecution had reached a plea bargain even though the defense had not seen all the evidence. The state handed over most of the evidence to the defense in February 2007 to enable it to prepare for the hearing that Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz granted Katsav three months later. However, it refused to hand over all of the material, despite repeated demands by the defense lawyers, including a petition to the High Court, to see it. In the wake of the hearing granted Katsav, the defense and the prosecution agreed on a plea bargain before the defense had seen the evidence it had wanted to see. "There is no precedent for reaching a plea bargain before [the defense] sees all the material," Feldman told Alexander on Sunday. "Should we find something in the missing evidence that proves there was a mistake in the plea bargain, we will definitely argue that the plea bargain was based on a mistake." Feldman added that he did not see why he had to speculate before the court about why the material might prove important to the defense. "It is as clear as ABC," he said. "The Criminal Procedures Law calls for transparency." Amir added that he believed the material withheld from the court included transcripts of wiretapped conversations. "There is a claim that the police wiretapped conversations of President's Residence Aleph," said Amir. "This has to be looked into. I have reason to assume that conversations of all kinds of subjects were wiretapped and I want an authoritative answer on this matter." Feldman added that he wanted to see the transcripts of the questioning of the other witnesses whose complaints were not included in the indictment against Katsav. He said he wanted to see whether the charges leveled by one complainant were copied by other women who complained against his client. If this were so, it would shed light on the methods the police used in their investigation, he explained.