State attorney to mull probing Katsav's 3 cronies

Cronies criticized by Tel Aviv District Court for intimidating and silencing women who were sexually molested by former president.

katsav enters court 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
katsav enters court 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
There are increasing calls to conduct a criminal investigation against three of former President Moshe Katsav's associates who were sharply criticized by the Tel Aviv District Court for acting on his behalf to intimidate and silence women who were sexually molested by him, the Justice Ministry announced Monday.
The three are Uri Yoeli, a private businessman, Zvi Brukner, director of Katsav’s bureau, and Rafi Ben-Hur, currently deputy director-general of administration in the Tourism Ministry.
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A spokesman for the Justice Ministry’s southern district said the matter would be discussed when prosecutors meet in the coming days to prepare for the next stages of Katsav’s trial.
Last month, Katsav was convicted on two counts of rape, two counts of sexual harassment, obstructing justice and committing an indecent act using force.
“The findings included in the verdict, along with the investigation material that was gathered regarding Katsav's aides, will be discussed soon, in the context of meetings to consider the next steps in the case,” the spokesman told The Jerusalem Post. “In the wake of the verdict, our office has received many inquiries on this matter and they will be answered as is customary.”
But the State Attorney’s Office has also raised the possibility that the statute of limitations applies to all of the serious crimes with which Katsav's aides could be charged. By law, any crime defined as a felony cannot be prosecuted after 10 years. Thus, the crimes would have had to have been committed no earlier than 1998.
One of the first letters that Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein received on this matter came from The Legal Forum, a watchdog organization of lawyers who take an active role in public affairs.
On January 2, forum president Natanel Peretz called on Weinstein to “launch a criminal investigation against former president Katsav’s aides. It is important to bring to justice everyone who contributed actively to the perpetration of serious sexual crimes and the humiliation of the victims of these crimes.”
Peretz wrote, “The court found that former president Katsav’s “loyal emissaries” carried out various acts which enabled him, ostensibly, to satisfy his desires. These acts included plotting against the complainants, tape recording one of them and then editing the tapes, manufacturing evidence for a rainy day, and more.”
According to forum director Roi Abrahamovitch, “we cannot simply shut the file and say the matter is closed. It’s inconceivable that these men acted against helpless victims and are getting away with it.
Until now, we have forgotten about the women.”
Former Tel Aviv District Court judge Shelly Timen told the Post that Katsav’s aides could be investigated on suspicion of tampering with evidence, conspiracy to tamper with evidence, disturbing witnesses and other crimes.
Brukner and Ben-Hur, who were civil servants, could also be charged with fraud and breach of trust, or be brought before a Civil Service Commission disciplinary court.
Timen also said that if for whatever reason, the three could not be charged for these crimes, they could be investigated for having lied to the court. Even though it is rare to charge witnesses (as opposed to defendants) with perjury, the authorities often charge suspects with crimes indirectly related to the investigation, if, for some reason, they cannot prosecute them for the major ones.
But according to Timen, it was less important to convict the three than to investigate them.
“The main point is that we cannot simply ignore what happened. If we do, we create norms that no one takes seriously.
Just like Tzachi Hanegbi, who said he had made political appointments because everyone else did and no one had been punished for it. We must enforce these norms. It should be forbidden for someone like Yoeli, a private businessman, to hang around the Tourism Ministry, when he does not work there.”
It was not enough that the court said it did not believe the testimony of the three cronies, said Timen. The judges only stated their opinion. The police should seek proof to show that they did, indeed, lie.