The Supreme Court granted an appeal by former President Moshe Katsav, to postpone the commencement of his jail sentence pending a ruling in his appeal on the matter, Ynet learned Wednesday.
Katsav was sentenced to seven years in prison after he was found guilty of rape and sexual assault.
Justice Yoram Danziger, presiding over the hearing, ruled that "it cannot be said that prospects for Katsav's appeal are without grounds, and this is being said without concluding anything on the matter".
- For full coverage of the Katsav case click here
The prosecution argued against the appeal, saying that "refraining from putting Katsav in prison could eat away at the public's faith in the court system.
"Legally the case is an average one. The defendant was convicted of serious offenses. Katsav must begin serving his sentence – seven years in prison – before the appeal process begins."
A case like any other (Photo: Yaron Brener)
But Attorney Avigdor Feldman, for the defense, explained that Katsav posed no danger: "It has been more than five years since the affair came to light. Katsav has been free for the duration of the trial and observed all of the court's orders. He has no intention of fleeing."
Judge Danziger noted in his ruling that according to Supreme Court guidelines, three criteria must take place in order to order the immediate imprisonment of a convicted felon, prior to the appeal process, but it Katsav's case, two of them – concern for public safety and the deterrence factor – did not apply.
Katsav's motion to defer his confinement pending an appeal on his sentence, added the judge, is not without precedent.
"It must be stressed that this ruling is limited to the question of deferring the commencement of the verdict and it does not aim to reflect on the chances of the appeal," Judge Danziger wrote in his ruling.
As for the appeal on the conviction on the lesser charges, the judge noted that while he does not think the chances for the appeal were favorable, had Katsav been tried for them alone, his sentence might have been lighter.
The judge further sustained the State's argument that the fact that the defendant in this case was a former president should not affect the results, saying: "This case is like any other where the court is asked to review and rule on the possibility of deferring the sentence."
The court, he added, must also consider the fact the Katsav was not incarcerated for the duration of his trial. He has no criminal record, the court noted, and is not considered a flight risk.
Nevertheless, Katsav was ordered to post a personal bond of NIS 100,000 ($28,450); and obtain two additional bonds from a third and fourth party. The former president surrendered his passport at the beginning of the legal preceding against him.
A. of the Tourism Ministry, the primary plaintiff in Katsav's case told Ynet she was shocked by the judge's decision: "I'm stunned. I don't understand why he ruled the way he did. This seems like an utterly wrong decision. You have to remember that three judges unanimously ruled that he was guilty. He belongs behind bars."
Attorney Daniel Seror, for A., added that "this is a highly surprising ruling by the court, especially when considering the Supreme Court's own practice of not deferring lengthy sentences.
"Nevertheless, it is important to understand that at the end of the day, this is just delaying the inevitable… We are convinced that one the appeal process has been exhausted, the Supreme Court will ratify Mr. Katsav's conviction… and that he will eventually see his prison term out."
Katsav welcomed the court's decision saying that he sees it "as final proof that my arguments are right and are worthy of being properly addressed in the Supreme Court."
"I'm very relieved," he added, "But you have to remembers that this is only a small part of the war. The bigger battle still awaits us."
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