Katsav 'confident' ahead of verdict
Moment of truth: Almost four and a half years after affair unveiled, Tel Aviv District Court to deliver verdict Thursday in affair involving former president. Katsav, accused of rape and indecent assault, remains optimistic. 'I believe the judges will reach the desired results,' he tells his associates
The Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday will deliver its verdict in one of the most important trial in the history of the State of Israel. Four years, five months and 22 days after filing a complaint with the attorney general, claiming that he is being blackmailed by a former employee, former President Moshe Katsav will be either convicted or acquitted of rape and indecent assault.
Katsav was indicted on two counts of rape and forceful indecent act against complainant A. of the Tourism Ministry, and two counts of sexual harassment against complainants H. and L. of the President's Residence.
The indictment also included a charge of obstruction of justice and witness tampering in L.'s case.
Nonetheless, the former president remains optimistic. "I am confident in my innocence," he told his associates on Wednesday. "With God's help I will emerge innocent."
Katsav's judgment day will reach its peak at 9 am, when Judges George Karra, Judith Shevach and Miriam Sokolov will read the verdict after hearing numerous testimonies, allegations and witnesses.
"I have no doubt that after the judges have seen all the testimonies and evidence in this case, they will be able to reach the desired outcome as far as I am concerned," Katsav told his associates in recent days.
The former president is expected to arrive at the courthouse on Thursday morning with his close family members, including his wife Gila who did not attend any of the hearings.
So far, Katsav has made certain not to sit on the defendants' bench while the media cameras were still in the courtroom. He would approach the bench only after the doors were closed. On Thursday, photographers will get their first opportunity to document the rare image of a former president as a defendant.
Katsav's aides added that he has not been sleeping in the past few days of the "battle of his life" and is very tense. His relatives have refused to give any interviews to the media.
"He hopes the court will make a wise and calculated decision which will clear him of all suspicions," one of the associates said.
'Tense but optimistic'
The former president's lawyer, Attorney Zion Amir, said that "Moshe Katsav is alert and tense, and yet optimistic. We are filled with hope that the court will accept the defense's claims and acquit Mr. Katsav.
"He believes in his rightness. He reneged on an easy plea bargain and favored a bloody war. I hope that what we have believed in all these years will be expressed in tomorrow's verdict."
Katsav's second defense counsel, Attorney Avi Lavi, added: "We pray and hope for an acquittal. After a thorough examination of the evidence, this is the expected result and we hope to see it."
On Wednesday morning, Katsav prayed at a synagogue near his home in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi, and later sat with his family members in the house and received phone calls from his supporters.
Tension was also felt Wednesday at the State Prosecutor's Office, due to the realization that the outcome of the case would directly affect the public's trust in the legal body.
A source in the State Prosecutor's Office reiterated that "this is a difficult case with complicated evidence," but stated that the prosecutors believed in the case "regardless of its results."
Women's groups to protest outside court
An acquittal will serve as a major blow to State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and former Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, who insisted on an indictment. Mazuz had rejected claims against the plea bargain, which Katsav eventually reneged on, claiming that it was a real achievement as the No. 1 citizen would have been forced to confess that he had committed sex offenses.
The complainants themselves have refused to talk to the media in the past few days. Their associates told Ynet on Wednesday that they were agitated and tense ahead of judges' verdict and expected Katsav to be convicted of all the offenses.
The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel are preparing to hold a protest outside the court in solidarity with the victims. The association's activists will hold signs in support of the victims, reading "You are not alone" and "We believe you".
"We expect justice not only to be seen but also to be served, after four years in which the victims have experienced a delay of justice and experienced very problematic conduct on the part of the State Prosecutor's Office and the attorney general," said Michal Rozin, CEO of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers.
"We hope that justice will be served and that the former president will be convicted of the serious sex offenses he committed: Rape and indecent assault."
Tova Dadon and Yael Branovsky contributed to this report
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