Supreme Court refuses Katsav request for more judges

Beinisch says expansion of panel to hear former president's appeal of rape conviction not justified.

Katsav (photo credit: Mor Aloni)
(photo credit: Mor Aloni)
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch on Monday refused a request by former president Moshe Katsav’s lawyers to expand the number of judges scheduled to hear the appeal of his rape conviction, to five or seven, from three.
Beinisch said that neither the legal arguments nor the identity of the appellant justified the expansion and that the originally assigned panel, consisting of Justices Miriam Naor, Edna Arbel and Salim Joubran, would hear the appeal as planned.
The Supreme Court also on Monday rejected a request by former president Moshe Katsav’s lawyers to change the dates of his appeal hearings, scheduled to begin on August 8.
The lawyers asked to delay the hearings, arguing that they fell in the court’s summer recess and that they had made vacation plans with their families.
The court’s response said that despite understanding the defense lawyer’s desire to go on vacation with their families during the recess period, what stood in the balance was the need to hear the appeal in as short a time as possible.
The decision stressed that the courts administration had made a special effort to schedule the hearings during the recess, in order to affect as little as possible the court dates of other cases.
The court did agree to start the hearings one day earlier out of consideration for Katsav, who asked not to attend court on the eve of Tisha Be’av.
Katsav was convicted in December of rape and sexual harassment, and sentenced in March to seven years in prison.
Earlier this month, Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger stayed Katsav’s punishment until his appeal process is complete.
Danziger’s ruling raised the ire of women’s rights groups who said Katsav was being given preferential treatment because of his former position, arguing that he should be treated as any common sex offender.
His rulings also raised questions about Katsav’s chances for success in his appeal. Danziger identified several judicial decisions by the district court that, if interpreted differently by the Supreme Court, could lead to his acquittal on the rape charge.
The key choice Danziger commented on was the judges’ decision not to consider the alternative defense presented by Katsav’s lawyers, though not by Katsav himself, that Katsav did not use force, but rather his seniority, to commit the offense. If such an argument is considered and found to be grounded in fact, the judges might acquit him of rape, Danziger wrote.
Katsav has denied any sexual relationship between him and his victims, which is why the judges refused to consider the secondary defense.