Avigdor Feldman Chosen to Replace Libai as Katsav Lawyer

Ex-justice minister says took case when it was suspected bid to blackmail president, rape allegations came later.

High-profile lawyer Avigdor Feldman was selected Sunday to replace Professor David Libai as the defense attorney for for President Moshe Katsav, who is facing an indictment for rape, sexual harassment, fraud and obstruction of justice.

Libai, 72, announced his resignation as Katsav's attorney earlier Sunday, explaining that he had taken the case before the suspicions of sexual misconduct were revealed. He added that he had agreed to Katsav's request to take on the case when it appeared to be an attempt by "A." to blackmail the president.

It only later became clear to Libai that this was a case that included allegations of sexual harassment, indecent behavior and rape.

Libai, who has long been linked to the Labor Party, served as justice minister under late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

As one of the high-ranking defenders in Israel, Libai is known as someone who carefully controls his reputation. He primarily deals with white-collar cases, and rarely with those involving sexual misconduct. In the past few months, he has been heard to complain on more than one occasion that he "fell" into the case.

The choice of Feldman to replace Libai was likely due to his reputation for civil rights work, and to Katsav's belief that his civil rights have been harmed throughout this affair.

Attorny Yaakov Weinroth and Moshe Israel were also listed as candidates for Libai's replacement, though Weinroth on Sunday declined the offer.

Libai's resignation was to go into effect as soon as his replacement was selected. Katsav's other attorney, Tzion Amir, will continue in his role on the defense team.

Libai submitted his resignation last week, following an emotional press conference given by Katsav, in which he accused the media of conspiring to topple him.

At present, his resignation is not expected to have any effect on the date of Katsav's hearing. The hearing is expected to occur within the next three months, though the defense team has still not informed the attorney general of how much time it will need to prepare.

Katsav said Sunday that Libai's resignation would not weaken his struggle or his desire to reveal the truth and prove his innocence, according to the President's Residence.

The President's Residence also said that Libai had informed Katsav of his resignation before the defense team received a copy of the indictment draft.

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