Shendar: Public misled on Katsav plea bargain
Amid turmoil, State Prosecutor backs deal; High Court to meet next week on petitions of sex crimes plea deal.
State Prosecutor Eran Shendar sent a letter to all district prosecutors in an attempt to calm the atmosphere of dissatisfaction resulting from the plea bargain that was reached with former president Moshe Katsav.
In the letter that sets out to justify the plea bargain, Shendar wrote that "the picture presented to the public was distorted and based on partial and slanted facts and testimonies. A sharp enough eye can distinguish between the legitimate and illegitimate parties that stand behind the information that was made public. Some of these parties are taking advantage of the situation in order to damage the position of the attorney general, so that they can weaken the authority of the state prosecution."
An official in the Justice Ministry said "obviously the state prosecutor wrote the letter for a reason. It isn't everyday that 20,000 people go to the streets to protest a plea bargain. I wouldn't be surprised if the tongue-lashing from the media and public didn't seep into the prosecutors offices and reach the state prosecutor's ear."
Shendar called an urgent meeting with prosecutors from all the districts in order to share with them the State Prosecution's response to the petitions submitted to the High Court of Justice against the plea bargain.
Shendar added that he would visit the different districts, in order to explain to prosecutors the reasons behind the plea bargain.
Katsav's attorneys lashed out Monday at critics of the deal struck between the former president and the State Prosecution, demanding the High Court of Justice reject the five petitions that were submitted against the sex crimes plea bargain.
In a formal letter submitted to the High Court on Monday morning, Attorneys Avigdor Feldman, Zion Amir and Avraham Lavi wrote: "The blood of Katsav has been shed in scenes reminiscent of witches being burned at the stake after being sentenced by the multitudes during the Middle Ages."
"The petitions have been filed as though neither law nor trials existed, and the media has put Mr. Katsav on the stake, flaying his skin with iron combs; every part of his body has been hit by stones," they wrote.
"Legal analysts, usually horrified by every act of injustice, are, in this case, licking their lips and clicking their tongues. The words rapist, pervert, serial sex offender are hovering around like heavy-winged, glowing fleas over a carcass."
"It is strange that the petitioners need the High Court, now the flames are dying out, and all that is left of the former president is bloodied remains. Now the petitioners want to drag the High Court to the city square and recruit it [to the campaign] against the former president, as people await in line to appear on television and curse Katsav. We are in the middle of a medieval carnival, organized on the sweltering summer days."
The High Court of Justice ruled Monday that the State Prosecution will have until Thursday at 1 P.M. to respond to the five petitions against the plea bargain Attorney General Menachem Mazuz struck with Katsav.
The court also gave the petitioners until Sunday morning to offer a rebuttal to the state's response.
A panel of three High Court justices will deliberate sometime next week on the petitions, which were filed on Sunday.
The court ruling came in response to a petition filed by the State Prosecution, requesting a 48-hour extension on its response to the petitions.
In the request, the prosecution reiterated its commitment not to file an indictment against Katsav at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court until the High Court holds a hearing on the petitions.
Katsav's resignation from the presidency went into effect a few minutes after 11:00 on Sunday.
The Justice Ministry announced on Sunday that following the recommendation of Justice Salim Joubran, the state would not file an indictment against Katsav at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court.
Joubran instructed the state prosecution and Katsav to present their responses to the petitions by 15:00 Monday. Originally, the Jerusalem District prosecutor was supposed to file an indictment against Katsav, in line with the plea bargain agreement, at 13:00, but the High Court order arrived first.
Meanwhile, the Knesset Finance Committee Monday postponed a scheduled parallel debate over a proposal to revoke life-long benefit the law grants former presidents. The benefits include funding for a residence, car and staff, at an annual cost to the state of about NIS 1 million, is gaining momentum among members of the Knesset Finance Committee.
Some MKs are calling for waiting on the judicial dust to settle before taking any concrete steps, and no one is suggesting that Katsav's monthly pension of NIS 46,278 be touched.
Committee Chairman MK Stas Misezhnikov (Yisrael Beiteinu) Sunday asked the committee's counsel, attorney Sagit Afik, to submit a legal opinion in writing on the body's authority to decide on the matter.
The Knesset's legal adviser, attorney Nurit Elstein, has meanwhile said it is the Knesset House Committee that is responsible for any changes to Katsav's retirement conditions, and that any changes should be made legislatively.