Former President Moshe Katsav - Tal Cohen
Former President Moshe Katsav leaving court late last year. Photo by Tal Cohen
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In a last-ditch effort to save the skin of former president Moshe Katsav, his lawyers met in recent days with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein in an effort to persuade him to push for a lenient sentence from the court. The sentencing hearings will be held next week.

The defense attorneys also tried to convince Weinstein to agree in advance to a postponement of the execution of the sentence. The attorney general did not agree to push for a lenient sentence, and in response to the request that the execution of the sentencing be postponed, Weinstein said he would formulate his position only after the court hands down Katsav's sentence.

A meeting of this sort to reach agreement on sentencing following a conviction is not common, certainly not at the highest possible level involving the attorney general. In the past, however, there have been cases in which both side agreed on limiting the sentence before it was handed down.

In this particular case, it is not out of the question that in exchange for the prosecution's agreement to request a lighter punishment, Katsav's attorneys said they would not appeal to the Supreme Court.

The sentencing hearings are scheduled for next week at the Tel Aviv District Court. Katsav was convicted of two acts of rape, indecent assaults and sexual harassment of female workers in his office.

At this stage of the proceedings, each of the sides will present its position on the severity of the sentencing. Following the conviction, the State Prosecutor's office announced that it would ask the court to sentence Katsav to an extended prison term. The state prosecutor does not usually request a specific length of time in prison, but instead, submits to the court previous rulings in cases involving individuals convicted of similar crimes.

Judges George Karra, Miriam Sokolov and Judith Shevach decided to hold the sentencing hearings for Katsav behind closed doors in order to protect the privacy of the complainants. But the sentence itself, they ruled, would be read out in open court. The judges have hinted that widespread media coverage of the case could lead to a more lenient sentence.

"We are not ignoring the anguish experienced by the accused as a result of the endless stream of severe reports against him published in the media, which labeled him a sex offender before the trial," wrote the judges in their verdict. "This anguish is insufficient, as was already stated above, to lead to the drastic measure of canceling the indictment, but we do not rule out the possibility of raising it for further discussion at a later date."

The judges quoted rulings that recognized the possibility of taking into account public humiliation to the accused when determining a sentence. One ruling stated: "Among other things, the court is expected to determine that the harm caused to the accused, while it may not justify canceling the indictment issued against him, does justify the retraction of specific charges, or deserves to be considered in his favor when determining his sentence, should he be convicted."