Tel Aviv court releases Katsav rape-trial transcripts

Transcripts, which run to hundreds of pages, were confidential until now: Katsav says of central witness: "She knows she was compelled to lie."

katsav in court wistful 311 (photo credit: Lior Mizrahi/ Pool)
katsav in court wistful 311
(photo credit: Lior Mizrahi/ Pool)
The Tel Aviv District court on Sunday released full transcripts of the defense testimonies from former president Moshe Katsav’s rape trial last year.
The testimonies, which run to hundreds of pages, were given in closed court and until now have remained confidential.
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.
Katsav categorically denied all the charges against him and has submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court.
At the start of his testimony before the Tel Aviv District Court, he said he wanted his side of the story to be told.
“Finally, finally someone is listening to me,” Katsav told the court. “This the easy part, contrary to what you think.”
In later testimony, the former president categorically denied raping the main plaintiff in the case, known as “Alef,” at the Jerusalem Plaza Hotel in 1998.
“I wasn’t with Alef at any hotel. That I can say for sure,” Katsav told the court.
He also denied Alef’s allegations that he had harassed her.
“I, God forbid, I would have been ashamed to look her in the eyes. I never, ever harassed her, I never, ever committed any obscene act. She never said a word about anything of the sort, she hasn’t made a single claim, not in a hint or directly. Quite the reverse, in all these years she’s shown only warmth and love,” Katsav said.
He also said that he had not favored Alef or treated her any differently from any of his previous bureau chiefs, and denied using a “honey trap” of special treatment in return for sexual favors.
He further said Alef was obsessed with other women who had come into his office and accused her of lying in her testimony to the court.
“She knows that she had to lie and she doesn’t want to elaborate on those lies,” he said.
Katsav also slammed the media, saying that Alef was surrounded by media advisers who were encouraging her to lie and even suggested that perhaps journalists had paid her for interviews about her story.
In the trial, Katsav’s defense argued that Alef had fabricated the rape story after seeing that other women had complained about Katsav. They claimed she did so to get revenge on Katsav for firing her.
In later testimony, Katsav was questioned about Lamed, the then 18-year-old who had undertaken National Service at Beit Hanassi.
Katsav was found guilty of sexually harassing Lamed.
In his testimony, he admitted that he had once hugged and kissed Lamed when the two were alone in his office.
He told the court that he did this to thank her for her work in helping to organize his 60th birthday party.
“I told her, ‘You deserve to be thanked, you deserve a hug and a thank you for everything you’ve done in the past few weeks,’” Katsav said. “So I get up, and she’s already on her way to the door, she turns round, she comes back to me, she’s smiling. So I go to her, I hug her, I kiss her on the cheek, I tell her thank-you again and she goes out. She’s smiling, in a good mood.”
When questioned about his working relationship with Lamed, Katsav replied that she was “younger than my youngest son.”
Katsav was later asked to respond to the fact that Lamed had testified that the former president had also had personal conversations with her in which he had asked her whether she had a boyfriend.
“Probably, she probably did answer a question like that,” Katsav said. “It was a question that came up during a conversation that had developed between two people, in this case a boss and a secretary, which didn’t have any ulterior motive to it. It was probably something about her family, maybe about her parents, or maybe I thought of someone to introduce to her. I had set up Alef from the Tourism Ministry with someone and she dated him.”
Katsav later said that the question of whether he had asked Lamed whether she had a boyfriend was “a very simple question.”
“I don’t see in that question, which she has suddenly turned into something so dramatic, I don’t see anything dramatic in it,” he told the court.
Katsav was also asked to respond to the fact that, in her testimony, Lamed had also said that he had told her she had “sensual lips.”
“I never said that expression ever, not once in the 64 years of my life. That’s not my language, that’s not my style,” responded Katsav. “Whether someone put that into her head, whether someone coached her, whether she collaborated, whether she knows she’s lying, I don’t know – but that is a lie.”
In her testimony, Lamed also said that when Katsav hugged her, he told her to “do it harder.”
Katsav denied that he had said this.
The former president later told the court he believed that colleagues in Beit Hanassi had pushed Lamed into making a complaint of sexual harassment against him.
He also categorically denied Lamed’s accusation that he had stared at her and that he had sniffed at her neck.
However, he admitted that he had “probably” pinched Lamed’s cheek and told her she was “cute,” as Lamed had testified, but that he had done that only once to compliment her for her good work.
The confidential defense testimonies were released two months after the former president submitted an appeal over his conviction to the High Court.
The Supreme Court has acceded to Katsav’s request to delay the commencement of his seven-year custodial sentence until his appeal has been decided.
In a new development last week, police charged that in the months since his conviction and ahead of his appeal, Katsav or his brother Lior had hired two private detectives and asked them to approach individuals connected to trial witnesses and find evidence to undermine their testimonies.
The name of one of the private investigators was released on Sunday. Former police officer Dan Vig, 49, who has past criminal convictions, was one of two private detectives arrested earlier this month on suspicion of approaching individuals and secretly recording conversations.
Vig’s name was released for publication after the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court lifted a media ban. The name of the second investigator is still banned from publication.
Katsav’s attorneys said the use of private investigators was a legal and legitimate step available to those seeking to clear their names.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.