Three High Court justices to hear petitions against Katsav plea bargain
A panel of three High Court justices will meet in the coming days to deliberate the five petitions filed yesterday against Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and the demand to void the plea bargain with former President Moshe Katsav.
Yesterday the Justice Ministry announced that following the recommendation of Justice Salim Joubran, the state will 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 today, and a short while later a decision will be made on when the court will hold deliberations. 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.
Also yesterday, Katsav's resignation from the presidency went into effect a few minutes after 11:00.
In the petitions filed at the High Court by civil rights and women's organizations, it was argued that the court must nullify the plea bargain "because of the extreme absence of reason, the damage to the public interest ... and the damage to the principle of equality before the law." The petitioners point to the fact that the attorney general considered "the conviction of the president on more serious charges likely" but nonetheless "exercised stricter judgment and conditioned the indictment on having a secure outcome or on the near certainty of a conviction."
The plaintiff against Katsav known as A. (whose attorney is Kinneret Barashi) and Yehuda Ressler also petitioned the court against the attorney general's decision to drop the charges stemming from her complaint against the former president. The decision to do so was made independently from the plea bargain.
Justice Joubran issued a temporary gag order on the details of A.'s petition to the High Court of Justice.
After a Haaretz request that Mazuz release the original draft of the indictment, in which more serious charges against Katsav are included, was denied, the Movement for Freedom of Information (MFI) filed a similar request with the Justice Ministry.
"There is no clearer example than this for the need of public supervision over the activities of the public prosecution," said Roi Peled, director of MFI. "It is sad that the attorney general has avoided to date giving a detailed explanation for his decision, but he must understand that the public prosecution is not immune to public supervision. If the prosecution is unwilling to reveal the suspicions against Katsav in court, it must at least present them to the public."
Channel 10 reported last night that Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann refused in recent days to issue a statement in support of the attorney general, even though Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked him to give public backing to Mazuz.
Sources in Friedmann's office said that "the minister is not interested in commenting on specific decisions."