Former President Moshe Katsav - Tal Cohen
Former President Moshe Katsav leaving court late last year. Photo by Tal Cohen
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The sentencing phase of a trial is a process often described by judges as unbearably difficult, even after serving on the bench for years.

After the judges deliver their verdict, they usually meet a number of times to discuss the sentence. They take the verdict into consideration, as well as legal precedents, and arguments for and against leniency submitted by the defense and the prosecution.

If they agree on the verdict, one of the judges on the panel writes the sentence and the two others read it over. If agreement on the verdict is not unanimous, different opinions are written. In the case against former President Moshe Katsav, the verdict was unanimous, which could have indications for the judges' decision regarding his sentencing.

Some jurists, for example retired Judge Saviona Rotlevi, who sat on the panel at the trial of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassin Yigal Amir, believe that if judges were unanimous in their verdict, their sentence should also be unanimous - one voice delivering its message to the public. But that was not the case in the Amir sentence.

The law does not provide guidelines for judges in sentencing, and the Knesset has moved slowly on legislating such guidelines.

However, the judges, who are believed to be considering a single-digit prison sentence for Katsav, will accede to the custom of concurrent sentencing.

Retired judges and criminal attorneys whom Haaretz asked yesterday about the sentence Katsav is likely to receive mentioned that the head of the panel, Judge George Karra, is considered strict in his sentencing.

A senior criminal attorney told Haaretz: "It's hard to believe that such an expert panel would impose a light sentence, considering the severity of the verdict."

Sources close to Katsav, however, said the severity of the verdict should be a reason for a lighter sentence.