The Justice Ministry has decided to defer its decision about Former President Moshe Katsav's petition for presidential pardon, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday.
Katsav, who is currently serving a seven-year sentence for rape and other sexual offenses, filed his clemency petition in October.
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Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman and other senior legalists in the ministry oppose the possibility of Katsav's parole.
Ne'eman himself cannot make the final decision on the matter due to a conflict of interest dating back to 2006 – when then-President Katsav sought his legal advice, as a private attorney, regarding a "blackmail attempt" he claimed was made against him.
At the time, Ne'eman advised Katsav to discuss the matter with then-Attorney General Moshe Mazuz. The latter's investigation into the alleged blackmail eventually unraveled details regarding Katsav's sexual misconduct, leading to his subsequent rape conviction.
Ne'eman has turned over the decision on the clemency petition to minister Benny Begin. The latter, however, will need to consider the recommendation brought before him by the Justice Ministry's legal team, which is against awarding Katsav a presidential pardon.
The former president named "family circumstances, health and mental anguish" as the reasons justifying a presidential clemency in his case.
A senior legal source in the Justice Ministry said that the team believes that the former president is ineligible for clemency for several reasons, most notably for the fact the he has never admitted his actions or expressed any kind of remorse – two ironclad prerequisites that must be met in order for a convicted felon to be eligible for a presidential pardon.
Furthermore, clemency petitions may be presented to the Justice Ministry in cases in which prisoners have served at least one-third of their sentence.
Katsav's appeal, the source added, was only rejected by the Supreme Court several months ago. "The ink on the verdict has yet to dry before he petitioned for a pardon," he said. "The court ruled the legal proceedings were solid and ratified the verdict. We will not demean the court's ruling by questioning it."
Top legalists, however, said it is very unlikely that the disgraced president would serve his seven-year sentence in full.
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