State to demand moral turpitude in Katsav indictment

Court upholds president's plea bargain as Beinisch outvoted on deal which drops almost all serious charges against him.

katsav 88 (photo credit: )
katsav 88
(photo credit: )
The State Prosecution will demand moral turpitude be include in the sexual crimes indictment against former president Moshe Katsav, due to be served in the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Thursday. However, almost all of the serious charges that had been included in the state's draft indictment will be excluded, since a panel of five High Court justices decided Tuesday morning to turn back six petitions and uphold Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz's decision to reach a plea bargain with the former president. The Justice Ministry issued a statement sayig that representatives of the Attorney-General stressed to the High Court of Justice that it was their intention to request the inclusion of the moral turpitude clause. Meanwhile, the Movement for Quality Government, the non-profit organization Koleh and The Women's Lobby appealed to the court to delay the indictment so that a further petition against the plea bargain can be submitted to the High Court. In Tuesday's High Court decision, three judges voted in favor of upholding the deal, while Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and Justice Edmond Levy were opposed. Supreme Court spokeswoman Ayelet Filo told The Jerusalem Post that the decision to publish the verdict on such short notice was not related to a report carried by Channel 10 on Sunday evening. According to the report, the High Court decision was being delayed because Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch was trying to persuade another of her colleagues to vote in favor of accepting the petitions. The report said that three of the five justices favored rejecting the petitions and confirming the plea bargain agreement. But Filo said the court had decided before the news report was broadcast to publish the verdict this week. Furthermore, it was obvious that the verdict, which she said was long, could not have been printed in the single day between when the report aired and when the verdict was released. On June 28, 2007, Mazuz announced he had reached a plea bargain agreement with Katsav's lawyers in which the then-president would confess to having committed indecent acts without consent by applying pressure against Tourism Ministry Aleph (the second Aleph), a woman who had worked for him in 1998 and 1999, when he served as tourism minister, and of having sexually harassed Tourism Ministry Aleph and another former employee. In return, he would be given a one-year suspended sentence and pay NIS 50,000 compensation to the women. Mazuz's decision was a far cry from the draft indictment which he had prepared five months earlier. On January 23, 2007, the attorney-general informed Katsav and his lawyers that he was considering indicting the president on one count of rape (later increased to two counts) regarding Tourism Ministry Aleph. Each rape count would have carried a sentence of up to 16 years in prison. The draft indictment also charged Katsav with having forbidden intercourse with consent regarding Beit Hanassi Aleph (the first Aleph), who worked for him in the president's residence from 2003-2004. The charges against Katsav involving Beit Hanassi Aleph also included committing an indecent act without consent by exploiting his professional authority and sexual harassment. The draft indictment also included charges against Katsav regarding two other women who had worked for him. In both cases, he was charged with committing an indecent act by exploiting his professional authority and sexual harassment. The huge gap between the draft indictment and the formal indictment shocked and outraged many people, especially after a year in which the country had been obsessed with the investigation. Six individuals and organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice to reject the plea bargain agreement and order Mazuz to adopt the original, draft indictment. Among the petitioners were Beit Hanassi Aleph, whose allegations against Katsav had been completely dropped in the plea bargain indictment, the Movement for Quality Government and a group of women's organizations including the Women's Network, WIZO, Na'amat, Kolech, and the Association of Rape Crisis Centers and a woman who had filed a complaint against Katsav and whose case had been included in the draft indictment but dropped in the formal version. The first hearing on the petitions was held on July 17, 2007. From the beginning, it was clear that the justices took the case seriously and were very hard on the state. Beinisch, in particular, peppered the state's representative, Attorney Shai Nitzan, deputy state attorney and head of the Special Tasks Section with tough questions and often displayed impatience with his answers. Over and over again, the justices demanded that the state explain why it had made such a drastic change in such a short period of time regarding the charges against Katsav. Over and over again, Nitzan tried to explain, each time in greater detail, including excerpts from the evidence, what had happened. He stressed that the original indictment was a draft and that Mazuz had explained from the start that he would only make a final decision after hearing the explanations of Katsav's lawyers, Avigdor Feldman and Zion Amir. Those explanations, and other developments that took place in the five-month interim between the draft indictment and the formal indictment, had led the prosecution to decide that its best option was the plea bargain proposed by the defense.