Ramon sexual harassment trial begins

Former justice minister denies charges, claiming soldier was flirting with him.

ramon fixes tie 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ramon fixes tie 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Former Justice Minister Haim Ramon told Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on Monday that the woman who accused him of forcibly kissing her had started flirting with him and that she had kissed him of her own free will. The statement was made by Ramon's lawyer, Dan Scheineman, to a panel of three judges, including Hayuta Kochan, Daniel Beeri and Daniela Cherizli on the opening day of Ramon's trial. He is charged with committing an indecent act against a woman without her consent. Prior to Ramon's statement, the indictment was read out in court. According to it, a woman soldier working in a government office in Tel Aviv was celebrating her last day in the army, and asked Ramon to take a picture with her. Ramon agreed and walked into an adjacent room. She brought the camera and asked another soldier to take the picture. After the photographer took two pictures, he left the room and she released her arms and turned to leave. He allegedly held on to her with one hand and brought her close to him. With the other, he seized her cheek, brought his head towards her and kissed her on the lips while inserting his tongue into her mouth. But Scheineman presented the court with a different version. Ramon allegedly arrived at the Prime Minister's Office in Tel Aviv for a private meeting before a scheduled cabinet meeting on July 12. The soldier allegedly started up with him by saying, "Mr. Minister, you know I can't resist you. I am about to be released from the army and I'm inviting you to come and travel with me." Ramon said he knew she was kidding but also felt she was flirting with him. He then went into the adjacent room and started watching television while waiting to see Olmert. In the meantime, the woman, identified as 'H,' entered the room and asked to take a picture with him. A soldier took two pictures showing her with one hand on his chest and another on his back, their two chests touching and her head reclining on his shoulder and neck. Ramon had one hand in his pocket and another on her hip. According to Ramon, the first two photos were taken within 10 seconds. A third was taken 51 seconds later. Ramon maintained that the kiss came after the third photo. The state said it took place between the second and third. Ramon said that after the third photograph was taken, he returned to the adjacent room. 'H' came to the door and said something to him. He signaled that he hadn't heard her and she approached him, bringing her face close to his. They then kissed for about two seconds. Ramon said he was the one who stopped it. Afterwards, the woman allegedly told Ramon, "We'll be in touch," and gave him her cellular phone number. The kiss was a natural result of 'H''s flirtatiousness and close embrace, according to Ramon. After Scheineman finished reading Ramon's version of events from the text, Ramon addressed the court in person, asking it to conduct the trial as quickly as possible. "I also waived many of my rights so that the trial could be conducted speedily," he said. In mid-October, 'H' will testify against Ramon. Two hearings have been scheduled for her testimony and cross-examination. Another four hearings were set for November. Ramon asked the court to schedule hearings between now and the High Holidays if dates become available. At the beginning of the hearing, the state prosecution, represented by Attorney Ariella Segal-Antler, asked that it take place behind closed doors. The court adjourned briefly but returned to reject the request. Ramon refused to discuss the allegations against him. He came to court hand-in-hand with his girlfriend, Vered Sharon-Rivlin. Extreme right-wing activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir also showed up and yelled insults at him for playing an instrumental role in last year's disengagement from Gaza.