Katsav attorney: Media demonized my client

Zion Amir says ex-president was convicted merely for giving "hugs"; Katsav complains: “an ordinary citizen would not have been tried in court.”

Former president Moshe Katsav in court 311 (photo credit: Alex Kolomoiski / Pool)
Former president Moshe Katsav in court 311
(photo credit: Alex Kolomoiski / Pool)
In the second day of Moshe Katsav’s Supreme Court appeal of his rape conviction on Wednesday, defense attorney Zion Amir said the former president’s character had been denigrated by the media during his trial.
Katsav was convicted in December of two counts of rape, two counts of sexual harassment, an indecent act using force, and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.
The former president appeared alternatively stonyfaced and emotional as he watched proceedings, flanked by family members.
At one point, Katsav interrupted justices and complained that “an ordinary citizen would not have been tried in court.”
Defense attorney Amir told the panel of justices – Miriam Naor, Edna Arbel and Salim Joubran – that since the investigation and trial began the former president had undergone a “character assassination” in the media and also argued that the media’s “lynching” of Katsav had permeated into the District Court’s ruling.
Amir mentioned press interviews given by MK Shelly Yacimovich, who met with “Alef” from the Tourism Ministry, the complainant in Katsav’s rape trial, in 2006.
Amir also argued that the prison sentence imposed on Katsav was far too harsh and that the former president had suffered terrible humiliation over the past five years.
In Wednesday’s hearing, Katsav’s defense team mostly focused on the charges of sexual harassment and indecent acts for which the former president was convicted in December, in addition to the two counts of rape.
Katsav was convicted of sexual harassment against “Heh,” a woman who worked in the President’s Office, and sexual harassment and indecent acts against “Lamed,” then an 18- year-old national service volunteer in the President’s Office.
Amir said that the charges brought against the former president by Heh and Lamed boiled down to the fact that he had hugged them.
“I ask you, does the court know whether there has ever been an indictment in the country’s history like that?” said Amir. “Have there ever been such complainants?” Amir said that the hugs were not sexual acts and did not constitute sexual harassment.
Amir told the court that there was no argument that Katsav had given Lamed a hug, calling it an “innocent embrace” without any sexual intent.
In his testimony to the Tel Aviv District Court during his rape trial, Katsav admitted hugging Lamed in his office but said he had done so to thank her for her hard work in helping organize his birthday party.
Amir argued that Lamed had only later said that Katsav told her she had “sensual lips,” and argued that she had added this in order to strengthen her story.
He also said that in her testimony Lamed had been unsure about how many hugs Katsav had given her.
He told the court that there had been a process by which Katsav had been demonized and turned into a “sex monster,” and argued that their various testimonies show that both Heh and Lamed had not originally felt sexually harassed by Katsav.
Instead, Amir claimed, the testimonies of both women had evolved over time and cited instances in which their versions had changed.
Initially, Lamed had said Katsav had given her a “fatherly” hug, argued Amir, but later she changed her version, and in 2009 said it was sexual, and added other details, including that the former president had sniffed at her neck.
Amir questioned whether a “wise girl” like Lamed, who had the support of her family, would have been afraid to tell the truth about the hug immediately after it happened if it made her uncomfortable.
“Why would she wait until 2009 to talk about an event that happened in 2005?” asked Amir.
Amir also asked the court to consider whether the police went looking for other women to testify against Katsav in the original investigation into events in his office.
That investigation was actually sparked by a complaint that Katsav himself brought to the Attorney General in 2006. He claimed that a woman – known only as “Alef from the President’s Residence” – was trying to blackmail him. However, that investigation switched from a blackmail investigation to rape allegations as several harassment complaints about Katsav emerged.
Katsav’s appeal will continue tomorrow and may also run over into extra sessions next week.
Dan Izenberg, Ron Friedman and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.