State may drop charges against Katsav protester

Adi Vinter appealing conviction for participating in unlawful protest against former president.

Adi Vinter (C)_311 (photo credit: JOANNA PARASZCZUK)
Adi Vinter (C)_311
(photo credit: JOANNA PARASZCZUK)
The Tel Aviv District Court asked state prosecutors on Monday to consider dropping charges against a woman convicted of taking part in an unlawful demonstration against former president Moshe Katsav.
Activist Adi Vinter was given a three months’ suspended sentence and a NIS 3,000 fine in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s court in July for blocking traffic during a mass demonstration in 2007.
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Vinter had been protesting against a plea bargain state prosecutors signed with the former president. That deal, which Katsav rejected in April 2008, caused fury among women’s groups, because it dropped rape charges against the former president in return for him agreeing to plead guilty to sexual harassment and indecent assault.
In July, the court also ruled that if Vinter did not pay the fine, she would have to spend three months in prison instead.
However, as she arrived at the courthouse on Monday, Vinter told The Jerusalem Post that if her appeal was rejected she was prepared to go to prison rather than pay the fine, because she believed so strongly both in her right to demonstrate and in her protest against the plea bargain.
“I feel that what I did was right,” she said. “And now I must pay the price for that, even though I believe there should not be a price. Right now, everyone is talking about the exclusion of women, and this is a reminder that women from all walks of life, not just haredi women, should fight for their place in society and pay the price for daring to make their voices heard.”
Vinter added that Katsav’s eventual trial and rape conviction proved demonstrators had been right to protest against the plea bargain.
“After Katsav was convicted, a lot was said about equality before the law,” said Vinter. “But the state did not want to bring him to trial. Now I’m being tried in court because I protested against that.”
In Monday’s hearing, a panel of three judges – Drora Berliner, Miriam Sokolov and George Kara – asked state prosecutors to examine whether they are prepared to drop the charges against Vinter.
Coincidentally, Judge Kara was one of the three Tel Aviv District Court judges who convicted Katsav of rape in 2010.
Vinter’s attorney, Gaby Lasky, argued that although four other women were arrested and indicted alongside Vinter, none of the others were convicted.
Lasky asked the court to also consider the context of the indictment against Vinter, which she said was “public rage” against the state attorney’s decision to drop rape charges in a plea bargain with Katsav.
“[Vinter] raised her voice and disrupted traffic for a moment to point out the terrible injustice perpetrated by the government and the State Attorney’s Office. If [Vinter] and others had not acted, Katsav would not have been brought to justice,” said Lasky, arguing that there were grounds for the charges against Vinter to be dropped.
Attorney Hadas Gedanken Shafir, for the state, argued that the demonstration had taken place without a license, and said that in arresting Vinter the police had acted within their role of maintaining public order.
The court ordered the prosecution to file a probation service report examining the possibility of dropping the charges by February 15, but said that if no agreement could be reached between the sides, it would issue a legal ruling in the case.
During the hearing, Vinter’s supporters held a small demonstration outside the courthouse, waving banners with slogans that read “sending women protesters to jail is political persecution.”
Vinter has also received support from women’s and civil rights groups, including Itach – Women Lawyers for Social Justice, the Coalition of Women for Peace, Physicians for Human Rights, Yesh Din and the Haifa Feminist Center, which signed a statement on Sunday in support of Vinter and against her conviction.
“In a reality where women still have to fight for their voices to be heard, Adi’s conviction sends a disturbing message about the right to protest, instead of strengthening demonstrators,” the statement read.