From the Presidential Residence to a jail cell: The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that former President Moshe Katsav's rape conviction
and sever-year prison sentence
stand, rendering Katsav the first president in Israel's
history to be sent to jail.
The Honorable Edna Arble, Miriam Naor and Salim Joubran ruled unanimously against the appeal. The three are considered strict judges, who often favor severe sentences, especially for sex offenders.
The court has allowed Katsav one moth to put his affairs in order. He will begin serving his sentence on December 7.
Katsav arrived in court accompanied by his children and several other family members. His wife Gila stayed in the couple's Kiryat Malachi home. He reportedly "remained stoic" throughout the ruling's reading, but seemed distraught once the sentenced was reaffirmed.
Katsav arriving in court (Photo: Noam Moskowitz)
Katsav was originally sentenced in March, after the Tel Aviv District Court found him guilty of two counts of rape, indecent acts, sexual harassment and obstruction of justice.
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The sentence – seven year in jail, and two years probation – was rendered four years and eight months after the case first began. He was also ordered to pay A., the first complainant, NIS 100,000 is damages, and L. the second complainant, NIS 25,000 in damages (a total of roughly $34,000).
Katsav filed an immediate appeal, maintaining his innocence even after his conviction. The appeal attempted to debunk the complainants' credibility and when that failed, the defense attempted to have a case dismissed on the grounds of abuse of process.
The defense argued that the State Prosecutor's Office and the Police "had it in fom him," and went to great lengths to insure he would be found guilty for a crime he did not commit. Katsav also accused then-Attorney General Menachem Mazuz as having a personal vendetta against him, saying it caused the State Prosecutor's Office to ignore the airtight alibis he presented to counter the rape charges.
Katsav also claimed that because of the prosecutions alleged leaks to the media he could not receive a fair trial, as he was "publicly tried in and by the media." Throughout the proceedings, the former president claimed time and time again that the media was "out to get him." The court denied the motion.
The Supreme Court denied all of Katsav's arguments on all counts of the appeal, saying that there was "no cause to infringe on the district court's ruling in the case." The panel did note, however, that the sentence issued by the district court was relatively harsh.
First Israeli president to go to jail (Photo: Omer Miron)
The three noted that the defense "failed to present any evidence to support the claims that the sexual relations were consensual," and rejected the defense's demand "to consider all possible scenarios."
The court accepted each of the complainants' versions of the events, ruling that their testimonies were credible. "The contradictions found in the testimonies do not make them untrue… And do not support the notion of reasonable doubt."
Nevertheless, the court acknowledged that the former president "went through hell, including a virtual character assassination prior to his trial."
Prosecutor Naomi Granot welcomed the decision, saying: "The court protects the victims of sex crimes – it protects their bodies, their minds and their honor." The ruling sends an important message, she added, "It reaffirms the fact that sex offenders will get lengthy prison terms – as they should."
Prosecutor Naomi Granot said that the decision "reflects the facts that all are equal in the eyes of the law." She added that the State Prosecutor's Office will study the court's criticism of its conduct vis-à-vis the media in the case.
With Attorney Zion Amir (Photo: Omer Miron)
Prosecutor Nisim Marom added that the Supreme Court's decision was "a clear message for victims – don't be afraid to press charges."
Attorney Daniel Srur, who represents A. of the Tourism Ministry, said his client was "relieved that justice has triumphed and the truth came out. She welcomes the ruling and hopes it encourages women who were sexually abused to complain."
Meanwhile, Katsav's defense team announced they will explore the possibility seek another hearing before a different panel.
Attorney Avigdor Feldman said that the court erred in its ruling, especially when it came to the complainants' credibility: "The concept of credibility hinges on the court's intuition, and I have little faith in it," he said.
Feldman added that the defense team will petition to have the case revisited by a different Supreme Court panel: "Chances are that other judges would have ruled differently."
Attila Somfalvi and Ronen Medzini contributed to this report