Former Justice Minister Haim Ramon was found guilty of indecent conduct by the Tel Aviv Magistrates' Court on Wednesday. The three judges decided unanimously to convict Ramon.
Ramon was accused of having sexually harassed a female soldier at the Prime Minister's Office in July by "placing his lips on her lips and inserting his tongue in her mouth." Following the indictment, he resigned his post as justice minister.
The court ruled that Ramon's version was not credible and added that the former minister attempted to humiliate the complainant.
"We are not talking about an innocent kiss on the cheek or on the forehead out of feelings of affection, but a kiss that has all the elements of a sex offense," the judges wrote.
Justices Hayuta Kochan, Daniela Cherizli and Daniel Beeri said that they found the complainant's testimony reliable and that Ramon had kissed her against her will, an act which they called humiliating and intrusive. According to the judges, Ramon lied and did not stick to the truth.
"We found that the defendant did not stick to the truth, tried to move the blame far away from him, belittled and reduced his actions and responsibility, and on the other hand, exaggerated. As for the complainant's part, he distorted and twisted the facts in a sophisticated way," they said.
As he left the courthouse, Ramon refused to respond and to say whether he planned to appeal the verdict. His attorneys also refused to comment.
Haim Ramon and his partner at courthouse (Photo: Niv Calderon)
The prosecutor, Attorney Antler-Segal, expressed her satisfaction over the verdict.
"The court sent a normative message to the public, stating unequivocally that a kiss is an indecent assault. It is not in the grey area, and it is not sexual harassment. A kiss is an indecent assault. The court ruled that it does not believe the defense's version, which was manipulative and not credible."
The ruling was expected to have an impact both on the State Prosecutor's Office and on the expected government reshuffle.
According to the woman involved in the affair, she knew Ramon briefly through her job and came to his office to get a photograph taken with him. After the photo was taken and they were left in the room alone, Ramon attempted to kiss her aggressively and put his tongue in her mouth, the woman charged. She added that she did not resist the minister because she "didn't know what to do."
Famous picture: Ramon and the complainant (Photo: Courtesy of Channel 2)
Later, the woman said, she was crying, and spoke to her direct manager about what happened after her co-workers noticed her tears. The manager was the one who filed the complaint with the police.
Close associates of Ramon, however, said the story was baseless and added that during the photo session the woman hugged Ramon and "tried to make a move on him."
The associates say that according to the woman's testimony, she did not leave the office crying, but rather, has a photo taken right after the incident where she's next to Ramon and smiling.
"In addition, according to her testimony, right after the incident she gave him (Ramon) a note where she wrote her phone number," one Ramon associate said.
Court: Complainant had no motive to harm defendant
The court ruling stated, "The judges found the complainant's credibility to be undeviating. To this we add that all the witnesses who heard her story gave her their full confidence… We found it fitting to note that the complainant is genuine and credible…
"She had no motive to harm the defendant. On the contrary, at first she refused to name him and later on insisted on not complaining against him so as not to become 'his number one enemy… the trustworthiness of the complainant stood the test of the confrontation, wherein she stood her ground determinedly and fended off (Ramon's) incessant and unrestrained attacks against her."
Regarding Ramon's claim that in joint pictures with him the complainant appears happy, countering her claim that she was distraught, the court ruled: "It is difficult to define what the rational or irrational reaction of a person after a traumatic incident; to every man his own response, to every man his own culture."
The judges added that "all the testimonies reveal that the complainant's behavior towards the defendant characterizes a routine way of behaving" – and was not a flirtation.
"We fully accept the complainant's version that it was a daily conversation without any implication on her part that she was interested in romantic relations with the defendant," the justices said.
Avi Cohen contributed to the report