State to indict Katsav tomorrow

Prosecution set to submit plea bargain according to which Katsav will receive suspended sentence.

Katsav 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Katsav 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The state prosecution will submit the plea bargain agreement it reached with former president Moshe Katsav and his attorneys in Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Thursday, and will ask the court to declare that the defendant's actions involved moral turpitude, the Justice Ministry spokesman said Tuesday. On Tuesday morning, the High Court of Justice cleared the way for the prosecution to file the indictment included in the plea bargain by rejecting petitions calling on it to nullify the agreement on grounds that the agreement did not reflect the severity of the sexual crimes committed by the former president. According to the agreement, Katsav will receive a one-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to the watered-down charges included in the indictment. The court does not have to accept the sentence agreed upon by the prosecution and the defense. Meanwhile, one of Katsav's lawyers, Zion Amir, warned that the former president might unilaterally reject the agreement at the last minute. "We will have to consider our position," Amir told reporters after the hearing at which Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch read out a brief summary of the 200-page ruling. "Too many bad things have been said and done [since the investigation began] that damaged Katsav's rights. Now the plea bargain is on the agenda, and we will have to rethink our position. We will consider and examine everything once again." Amir explained that he was not announcing that the plea bargain was off. "All I am saying is that we will study the High Court verdict. If it includes elements that trample and harm the president's basic rights, it will justify reconsidering our position," he said. Amir said he was particularly concerned about the state's request of the court to declare that the crimes to which Katsav confessed involved moral turpitude. The issue was not mentioned in the plea bargain. At the other end of the spectrum, Eliad Shraga, chairman of the Movement for Quality Government and one of the lawyers who pleaded before the court against the plea agreement, said he would likely ask the High Court for a second hearing before an expanded panel of justices. "The... significance of a verdict like this is that, once again, it has been proven that there is no equality before the law," Shraga said in response to the court verdict. "Some people are more equal than others. But it's not over until it's over." Attorney Kinneret Barashi, who represented complainant "Beit Hanassi Aleph" in two of the six petitions submitted to the High Court, expressed anger over the fact that both were rejected by the court. The indictment based on the plea bargain did not include any charges against Katsav regarding her client, even though she had been the first woman to accuse the former president of sexual crimes, and despite the fact that in a draft indictment submitted five months before the plea bargain, Katsav had been charged with having illegal sexual intercourse with her. "The revolution of the past 10 years with regard to violence against women has collapsed as a result of this verdict," said Barashi. "The Israeli public is no longer protected, it has become vulnerable. If that's the outcome of this hearing, I think each and every citizen must protect himself, must make a fortress of his body and, if necessary, use force against aggression of the kind displayed by people like Moshe Katsav, instead of waiting for the law, which takes so many years." Barashi said she was not considering asking for a second hearing, but might release some of the evidence so that the public would know more about Katsav's conduct. "Maybe then it will give its own verdict and cancel this ridiculous and miserable plea bargain and force the case to go before a criminal court," she said. The Justice Ministry issued a statement "expressing satisfaction over the High Court decision to reject the petitions against the decision of Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz." According to the statement, the prosecution decided to reach a plea bargain "on the basis of a professional and cautious assessment of the evidence, which was borderline and problematic. Nevertheless, even though the indictment includes crimes that are less severe than the ones Katsav was suspected of perpetrating, they are still serious sex crimes in their own right, considering his high public status... We chose the path that looked right to us. We... express satisfaction that the court accepted our position." The statement went on to say that the ministry would not ignore the court's comments and criticism and would conduct an internal examination of all aspects of the way the Katsav file was handled. It also rejected the charges that in reaching a plea bargain with Katsav, the state prosecution had undermined the fight against abuse of women.