Moshe Katsav sentencing - Israel Hayom - 22.3.2011
From left, judges Miriam Sokolov, George Karra and Judith Shevach announcing the sentencing of former President Moshe Katsav at the Tel Aviv District Court. Photo by Israel Hayom
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Tel Aviv District Court Judge Judith Shevach wrote in a minority opinion that former President Moshe Katsav was already deemed to be guilty by the legal authorities, the public and the media.

Shevach, who favored a lighter sentence given the case's "kangaroo court" atmosphere, harshly criticized former Attorney General Menachem Mazuz's decision to grant media interviews on the Katsav case before he decided whether to issue an indictment.

"If the attorney general had already determined in 2006-2007 that the accused was a serial sex offender, why should he and the public have waited to hand down an indictment and a verdict?" Shevach wrote in her opinion, which she read out after the sentencing.

Public judgment of the accused before the trial did not occur in a vacuum, she added. It was the continuation of unnecessary comments by the attorney general and other public officials.

"Before a decision was made whether to indict, the attorney general thought it proper to publicly declare: 'The chances that a plot was hatched are very slim' and 'it seems we have an individual who over the years has behaved in a manner befitting a serial sex offender,'" Shevach wrote.

"An attorney general is not supposed to operate in the media sphere from the time preceding a decision on an indictment all the way to a verdict."

The judge also took the media and the public to task for their conduct in covering the Katsav affair.

"The kangaroo court that the accused was subjected to is the direct result of the swift trial by the media of the accused - all this while a criminal trial was happening in court," she wrote. "A verdict in the [trial by the media] was handed down long before the criminal case was decided. This was done with the unprecedented, massive aid of tendentious leaks that nobody has answered for thus far."

Shevach cited newspaper reports that quoted anonymous sources linked to the case, leaks she said harmed the defendant's right to due process.

"While the accused did not conduct himself adequately, one cannot compare the situation of an accused fighting for his life and a media that is tasked with operating by an ethics code and is required to act with restraint and caution," the judge wrote.

Shevach also criticized the demonstrators gathered outside the court.

"The screams of joy and the shrieking denunciations toward the accused constituted a final note to this long process of the public's passing judgment on the accused and convicting him prematurely," she wrote. "This process found expression in demonstrations in the town square, gatherings outside the courthouse, waving signs with shameful slogans, slanderous [Internet] talkbacks, and more. All this occurred long before the court had its say.