Katsav's son says his family accepted deal to get some quiet

Government watchdof urges Mazuz to quit; poll: 71% of public opposes plea bargain, would prefer to see matter go to trial.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
President Moshe Katsav and his family were initially opposed to the plea bargain proposed to them by the prosecution, but ultimately accepted it so as to avert the agony of remaining in the public eye until an acquittal was reached, the president's son, Yisrael Katsav, told Channel 2 Thursday. "We wanted our quiet, and that was the deciding factor in accepting the deal," Katsav said. "They sent us the plea bargain…and then we convened here (in the president's home in Kiryat-Malachi)… there were severe arguments." Katsav praised the steadfastness of his mother, Gila Katsav, saying that "[she] holds everyone together…with their heads above the water." "She was, perhaps, the one who suffered the most," he said, and implied that it was the prospect of his mother having to endure a two year long trial that tipped the scales in favor of accepting the deal. Katsav tried to dispel uncertainty regarding the president's motive in accepting the plea bargain, asserting that fear of a conviction was not what drove the president to sanction the deal. "You should have no doubt, and the public should have no doubt, that had they possessed the evidence to back up the accusations, they would have put them in the lawsuit." Earlier Thursday, the Movement for Quality Government called on Attorney General Menahem Mazuz to quit after the state agreed to drop the rape charges in the indictment against President Moshe Katsav as part of a plea bargain arrangement reached between his lawyers and the prosecution. In a letter sent to the attorney general, the group said that following the plea bargain, "the clear impression has emerged that the senior leaders in Israel are above the law, even with regards to the most serious punishable crimes." The watchdog organization, Ometz, also urged Mazuz to retract the plea bargain. In a letter sent to the attorney general, the organization said: "For the benefit of the Israeli public and for the need to prevent further erosion of the justice establishment, there must be a court case on the complaints made against the president." Seventy-one percent of the Israeli public opposes the plea bargain offered to Katsav and say they would prefer to see the matter go to trial, a poll conducted for the Knesset Channel revealed Thursday. Only 29% of those polled said they approved of the plea bargain. Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar, chairman of the Committee on the Status of Women, said that the plea bargain raised questions about public faith and equality in the law enforcement establishment. "Mazuz did not provide a convincing explanation for the gap between the draft indictment and the plea bargain," said Sa'ar. Michael Eitan (Likud) praised Mazuz's decision. "We need to respect the seriousness, courage and consideration of the state attorney," he said. Earlier, Police harshly criticized the work of the investigation team in the Katsav case. Police sources said that head of the team, Dep.-Cmdr. Yoav Segilovich, had insisted all along that there was proof of rape, although question marks had arisen throughout the case. Head of the police investigations and intelligence division, Cmdr. Yohanan Danino, also didn't express doubts with the proofs brought by police, said the sources. Police added that the investigating team did not invest enough time or resources to check the truthfulness of the complainants and to refute several of the claims- as Katsav's attorneys eventually succeeded in doing. The investigators identified with the complainants, said police. Israel Radio reported that several months ago, after doubts were expressed in the media over the truth of Beit Hanassi A' s claims, Segilovich summoned her to boost her confidence. Avigdor Feldman, one of Katsav's attorneys, praised State Attorney Menahem Mazuz, saying he was professional and courageous enough to see he was wrong to submit an indictment against Katsav. "Mazuz was convinced, not from the new proofs brought, but from the way the attorneys presented their material, proving that such a harsh indictment was not warranted," said Feldman "There is no doubt Katsav would have been acquitted even of the charges included in the new indictment," he said, adding that Katsav wanted to avoid "going through the hell" of a rape case. Earlier, Kinneret Barashi, attorney for the complainant known as 'Beit Hanassi A,' harshly criticized the justice system. Barashi, who represents 'A,' the first woman to openly accuse the president, told Army Radio Thursday that "the humiliating deal proves that Katsav has been lying throughout the entire ordeal. There are 10 different women who have spoken about sexual harassment that were proven to be telling the truth in a polygraph test." Barashi noted that Katsav, suspected of serious sexual offenses, had refused to undergo a polygraph test himself. "Throughout the case [Katsav] claimed that [no such incident] had ever occurred. "The credibility of 'A' who I represent and [the second] 'A' from the Tourism Ministry cannot be doubted. This was reiterated by Mazuz in an interview he gave several months ago. Both [women] described a similar progression of events, though the two had neither worked together [or even] knew each other," said Barashi. The plea bargain is a "message to the public, which says something simple: As long as you're a public figure, and you're suspected of sex crimes, your road is open, and the State Attorney's office will give up on doing justice in the case," Barashi told Channel 2. Meanwhile, members of the Center for Victims of Sexual Assault were shocked by the drastic changes made to Katsav's indictment on Thursday morning. "This is a terrible day for us all," CEO of the organization, Tal Kramer, told Army Radio. "We are yet again witnesses to a situation where a connected politician has evaded punishment. People with power manipulate the system every time. This is a horrifying message for the victims in Israel," said Kramer. According to Kramer, the plea bargain came as a surprise considering that Katsav initially said that there was no truth in the accusers' testimonies. We should all be suspicious," she said. Ap contributed to this report.