Court slams Mazuz in Katsav verdict

Justices cite several interviews that former attorney-genera gave to the press expressing personal opinion of Katsav's guilt.

Menahem Mazuz (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Menahem Mazuz
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
As it pronounced its verdict on former president Moshe Katsav’s appeal against his rape conviction, the Supreme Court had sharp words to say about former attorney-general Menahem Mazuz.
In August, during the former president’s Supreme Court appeal, his defense attorney Zion Amir had complained that Katsav had undergone a “trial by media” and had been “demonized” by a “cannibalistic media” before his actual trial ever began.
The defense also complained that Mazuz had taken part in that “trial by media” by presenting his personal opinion about Katsav’s guilt in interviews before the former president was formally arraigned.
“This court partially joins with the defense’s criticisms of the various statements made by the attorney-general in interviews prior to [Katsav’s] arraignment,” the justices said, adding that the media’s behavior in the case had been “regrettable.”
The justices cited several interviews that Mazuz gave to the press, including one with Channel 2 in which the former attorney-general said of Katsav that: “it turns out we have a person who behaved like a sex offender for several years.”
“The attorney-general found it necessary to express his personal opinion in public on [Katsav’s] guilt and that it was not a fabricated plot, even before the state attorney’s office reached the conclusion that [Katsav] had a case to answer,” said the judges. “We believe that it was not appropriate that the attorney-general should address the media in a way that analyzes the evidence.”
Justice Salim Joubran said that Mazuz’s behavior toward the press was “distressing” and “it undoubtedly affected public opinion,” in light of his role as a senior public figure.
“If the attorney-general has already decided in 2006-2007, in public and before an indictment, that [Katsav] is a serial sex offender, the public obtained the impression that the law has already been determined and [Katsav] is no longer presumed innocent,” said Joubran.
However, Joubran also said that Mazuz did make it clear that a final decision in the case had not been made and that he had emphasized that caution should therefore be taken.
With regard to the media influence on the trial, the justices also said that the sheer weight of the evidence against Katsav meant that any influence created by the media was negligible.