Supreme Court to hear appeal of Katsav rape conviction

Former president, sentenced to 7 years in prison for a number of sexual offenses, set to begin fight to maintain his freedom.

katsav in court wistful 311 (photo credit: Lior Mizrahi/ Pool)
katsav in court wistful 311
(photo credit: Lior Mizrahi/ Pool)
The Supreme Court was scheduled to begin hearing the appeal filed by former president Moshe Katsav against his conviction for a number of sexual offenses on Sunday.
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 has been sentenced to seven years in prison.
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In May, 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.
Last week, The Supreme Court ruled that Katsav's appeal would not be conducted behind closed doors.
Katsav’s attorneys had appealed a request by the state to hold the appeal in closed court. They opposed the state’s request on the grounds that the trial should be open to the public in order for them to “evaluate the evidence for themselves.”
Supreme Court Justices Miriam Naor, Edna Arbel and Salim Joubran were selected to hear Katsav's appeal. The Courts Administration instructed lawyers for both sides to schedule August 8, 10 and 11 for the hearings, but to hold aside August 15 and 16 as well. The court agreed to start the hearings one day earlier out of consideration to Katsav who asked not to attend court on the Jewish holiday of the eve of Tisha Be'av.
In the aftermath of Katsav's conviction, his attorney Avigdor Feldman told Army Radio that the appeal would focus on the testimony of “Aleph” from the Tourism Ministry, the woman who claimed and convinced the Tel Aviv District Court that Katsav had raped her on two occasions.
Feldman said that Aleph’s testimony was swayed by external elements and that she changed her testimony from the version she gave during the police investigation.
“During her testimony the witness made statements that we consider to be lies. The court chose to interpret them as memory lapses, but the fact is that the experiences she spoke of became more severe from one investigation to another,” Feldman said. “We believe she was pressured into changing her story.”