Former President Moshe Katsav became the first Israeli president to face criminal charges on Tuesday, but after entering the courtroom, he reneged on the plea baragain signed with the State's Prosecutor's Office.
The ball is now back in Attorney General Menachem Mazuz court. Mazuz will have to decide whether to indict Katsav and for what charges.
"I decided to cancel the plea bargain because I want to fight for my innocence," the former president said after leaving the courtroom. "I want to put an end to the persecution. I want to fight for the truth. I know what this means and I am aware of the implications."
A representative for the State Prosecutor's Office said, "We are now back at the same point we were on the eve of the agreement on the please bargain. We will decide whether to file an indictment in the coming days.
"We regret the defense's inconsistent behavior and conduct," she added.
The Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court on Monday rejected Katsav's petition to postpone deliberation on the plea agreement offered in his case.
The former president was ordered to appear in court Tuesday, for primary deliberations regarding the plea bargain which the State offered him. Katsav was to be forced to admit to a series of sexually-based offenses against his former employees.
Katsav and wife Gila leave for Jerusalem (Photo: Tsafrir Abayov)
The former president left his house in the town of Kiryat Malachi in the early morning hours, accompanied by his wife Gila, and drove to Jerusalem.
Katsav's attorneys, Zion Amir and Avigdor Feldman, arrived at the courthouse before the former president, who remained in his car for half an hour before entering the courtroom.
Asked where Katsav was, Attorney Amir replied, "He's within reach."
The need to wait for Katsav caused confusion and among those present at the courtroom. The former president's car traveled back and forth in the courthouse area.
Women's organizations held a demonstration outside the courthouse Tuesday, calling on the judges to rule that Katsav's offenses carry moral turpitude. The protestors cheered and applauded upon word that the plea deal had been revoked.
The demonstrators sported banners reading “it could happen to anybody” and “such offenses carry moral turpitude."
Attorney Amir stated Monday that the former president “will appear in court but will not admit to the charges leveled against him as part of the plea deal. We have humbly accepted the court’s decision, but, as the investigation in this case is still on-going, we will not address the charges outlined in the indictment at this point in time.”
Series of delays
The trial for the former president was supposed to commence on March 26, however, the State Attorney’s Office and Katsav’s attorneys jointly agreed to postpone deliberations for two weeks. Katsav’s attorneys petitioned the court for this postponement in order to obtain case materials that had not yet been made available to them.
Following this delay, Katsav’s attorneys maintained that the State Prosecutor's Office is looking to sabotage the plea agreement offered to the former president, after the state had urged Applicant A to sign documents attesting to the emotional damage that Katsav’s actions had caused her.
The former president’s attorneys had even threatened to delay deliberations an additional time if the State Attorney’s Office fails to disclose additional, relevant case material to them. Ynet had learned that the material in question includes a tape of 'Complainant A' from her days at the Tourism Ministry, as well as several of the complainant’s transcribed conversations.
Roughly a month ago, the Supreme Court authorized the plea agreement in Katsav’s case, terms of which indicate that the former president will only be charged with lesser sexual offenses such as commission of a lewd act using duress, as well as sexual harassment.