Women's groups hail Katsav's decision

MKs respond to former president's rejection of plea bargain.

women katsav protest 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
women katsav protest 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Former president Moshe Katsav's unexpected announcement spread shockwaves through the political system Tuesday, with politicians and women's groups alike anticipating the day that Katsav's accusers would have a chance to testify in court. But at the same time, many also blasted Katsav, and even the legal system, for enabling the former president to catch them off guard and back out of his plea bargain deal. "This is an opportunity for the court to call in all of the women who registered complaints against Katsav and were not given the opportunity to level their accusations," said Rina Bartel, the chairman of the women's lobby. "We have believed all along that the plea bargain does not reflect the serious allegations against Katsav and have claimed that a just trial should be held during which all of the evidence would be brought to bear." Ronit Erenfround-Cohen, head of the Department for the Advancement of Women at WIZO, the Women's International Zionist Organization, responded that the organization also supported the cancellation of the plea bargain. MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) voiced satisfaction with the cancellation of the deal. "It's good that the embarrassing farce of a plea bargain... has been withdrawn," she said, calling on Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz "to learn from his mistakes and to make Katsav stand trial as soon as possible, like any other serial sex offender." Adi Dagan, spokeswoman for the Coalition of Women for Peace, also welcomed the decision, but said she was disappointed that the state had not made the move first. "I'm very happy that the plea bargain has been canceled," she said. "It's just a shame that it came from his lawyers and not from state prosecutors, who should never have agreed to this in the first place." Dagan said it was important for victims of sexual crimes to speak out about what happened to them if they so chose, "especially in cases such as Katsav's, where [the alleged perpetrator] has so much power." MK Ran Cohen (Meretz) accused former president Moshe Katsav of exploiting decisions made by the prosecution in the process of compiling his plea bargain, after Katsav announced that he was calling off the deal. "Katsav's annulment of the plea bargain seems to me to be a sordid ruse, which attempts to depend on the fact that the prosecution has de facto rejected some of the complaints of the plaintiffs," Cohen said. He assessed that Katsav's defense team would "try to reduce the degree of guilt that was agreed upon in the plea bargain." Some politicians offered guarded support for the embattled former president. MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) described Katsav's decision as "brave and correct," adding that a trial would allow the truth to come to light. But criticism of Katsav far outweighed the compliments. "Katsav's behavior is spitting in the face of the legal system and of the State Attorney's Office," said MK Orit Noked (Labor). And Dorit Abramovitch, Coordinator of the Coalition of Women's Organizations, called for Mazuz to resign Wednesday after Katsav and his legal team called off the plea bargain. "It's clear that the government's legal adviser [Mazuz] should step down," Abramovitch told The Jerusalem Post. "Because of him, this affair has dragged on when really, all the women's complaints should have been heard already." She said that women's groups welcomed Katsav's decision to cancel the plea bargain and added that they would continue to support his victims.