Katsav to enter prison, begin sentence for rape conviction

Former president to be watched constantly to ensure he doesn’t attempt suicide, will be housed with former Shas minister Shlomo Benizri; Katsav, who turned 65 this week, will serve seven years in prison.

Moshe Katsav walking into court 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))
Moshe Katsav walking into court 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))
The state’s eighth president, Moshe Katsav, will add a dark chapter to Israel’s history on Wednesday and enter the Ma’asiyahu prison in Ramle to begin a seven-year sentence for rape and other offenses.
Still pleading his innocence, the disgraced president will depart his Kiryat Malachi home, leave his wife and family behind, and make his way to the minimal security prison named after an Israelite guard who protected the First Temple.
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Katsav will be placed in the religious wing of the prison, and will share a cell with ex-government minister Shlomo Benizri of Shas – a move Prisons Service staff say will ease the shock from the sudden change of environment.
A warden will be assigned exclusively to the ex-president to ensure he does not attempt suicide, Prisons Service chief Aharon Franco said on Tuesday during a Knesset hearing.
“We will monitor his acclimatization,” Franco said. A prison committee will later decide on whether to keep Katsav in his allotted cell or transfer him elsewhere.
Katsav, who turned 65 on Monday, will be allowed to wear his own clothes behind bars, though he will have to don Prisons Service uniform during court appearances, should he make future appeals.
The religious wing houses 72 prisoners, is free of televisions, and inmates spend most of their time in two seminaries studying Torah.
The inmates also routinely meet with social workers as part of a rehabilitation program.
The former president was unanimously convicted in the Tel Aviv District Court a year ago of two counts of rape, two counts of sexual harassment, an indecent act using force, and obstruction of justice.
The court sentenced him to seven years in prison.
In its judgement, the court said the testimony of the main complainant in the case, a woman known only as “Alef” from the Tourism Ministry, was credible. Alef testified Katsav had raped her twice, first in his office and then two months later in the Sheraton Hotel in Jerusalem.
Although the court sentenced Katsav to seven years in prison, in May, Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger agreed to stay the former president’s jail term until his appeal was heard.
In August, the Supreme Court heard that appeal against both Katsav’s conviction and sentence. The former president’s lawyers, Zion Amir and Avigdor Feldman, reiterated a line of defense rejected by the district court in which Katsav and Alef had a romance, which included consensual sexual relations.
However, in November, after three months of deliberations, the panel of Supreme Court justices – Miriam Naor, Edna Arbel and Salim Joubran – stated unanimously that the district court’s verdict was sound and Katsav would serve the seven-year prison term imposed by the lower court.
“A great sadness falls on the State of Israel when a former government minister, deputy prime minister and president is found to have committed such acts,” the justices said. “The most difficult scene to witness is that of a national icon, someone who served the country, being sent to prison.”