The rejection of former president Moshe Katsav's appeal yesterday morning marked the end of one of the longest, most dramatic and most significant sagas in the history of Israeli society. Indeed, as Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran said, the District Court's conviction of Katsav was an earthquake. It is not a trivial matter when the occupant of the nation's highest office is convicted of a crime - and especially not when that crime is rape.
It's hard to exaggerate the importance of the verdict. Faced with a well-oiled system that exerted enormous pressure on the complainants and made sophisticated, cunning use of the media, the justice system conducted thorough, professional hearings at every stage of the case. It took into consideration every complex characteristic of sex crimes in general, and sex crimes committed by a person in power in particular.
The former president stood in the Supreme Court yesterday just like anyone else as the three-justice panel explained its unanimous decision to uphold the District Court's verdict in full: to believe the testimony of A., the complainant from the Tourism Ministry who accused Katsav of raping her; and not to believe what the justices called the defendant's "non-truth," which the District Court judges explicitly termed a pack of lies.
All the defense's efforts to smear the complainant and stigmatize her as a gold-digger were completely refuted. All the efforts of Katsav's associates to undermine her credibility in the media, using claims like concealment of evidence and "consensual relations," proved in vain, given the Supreme Court justices' unequivocal decision to uphold the District Court's verdict. The claim that Katsav had been denied due process was also rejected, and the justices even condemned the defendant's abuse of his lofty position and his conduct during the trial.
The sentence imposed on the former president is a stiff one, but not exceptionally so, given the severity of the crime. In their clear, unequivocal ruling, the justices also dispelled the verbal fog through which Katsav's attorneys had tried to blur the gravity of the offense and undermine the legal and moral basis for his conviction. A shining page was recorded yesterday in the history of Israeli democracy, one that bolsters the status of women and the value of equality before the law.
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