Katsav Mum, Women's Groups Welcome Rape Indictment

Media advisor to former president vows 'he will fight to prove his innocence in court.'

Former president Moshe Katzav was secluded in his Kiryat Malakhi home on Sunday, refusing to speak to the press. His brothers and sons, arriving at the house in the afternoon, also declined to comment.

Katzav's media advisor, Ronen Tzur, said in a statement on behalf of the family that, "the former president took the possibility [of an indictment] into consideration when he called off the plea bargain. He will fight to prove his innocence in court."

Tzur added: "If [Attorney General Menachem] Mazuz is so confident of the rape charge, why wasn't it part of the plea bargain?"

MK Haim Oron (Meretz) requested that the finance committee of the Knesset be convened immediately, to discuss his proposal for denying retirement benefits to former officials convicted of offenses entailing moral turpitude, for the period between the indictment and the sentencing. If there is an acquittal, the withheld benefits can be paid retroactively, Oron said.

As a former president, Katzav is entitled to a yearly budget of NIS 2 million, covering aides, secretaries, a state vehicle, phone and private household expenses, and an office.

Katzav has chosen to rent office space in the tallest skyscraper in the country: the 74-story Moshe Aviv Tower in Ramat Gan.

Oron explained that the budget is a means of maintaining a connection between a retired official and the public, but once the public trust is breached any such connection becomes redundant.

"Besides, it's not really clear what public would want to have ties with Moshe Katzav," the MK added.

MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima) said she will be submitting a similar proposal to the finance committee, and noted that Mazuz's decision "sent a message: You can't rape women and get away with it."

There was much satisfaction concerning the news of the indictment among local women's organizations, which in 2006 established a broad coalition dedicated to bringing Katzav and then minister Haim Ramon, accused of forcibly kissing a woman soldier, to trial. The coalition was formed in the wake of a plea bargain formulated by Mazuz.

Two years of feminist struggle

Said Dorit Abramovich, who coordinated the organizational effort: "We are happy that after two years of a feminist struggle to indict Moshe Katzav and to bring justice to victims of sexual violence, we have finally reached the day when the attorney general sees eye to eye with women's organizations. We are pleased that he agrees with us that if a man is suspected of serial sexual offenses, he must be brought to trial - especially if he is a high-ranking functionary."

WIZO-Israel chairwoman Yochi Feller noted the timing of the decision - International Women's Day - and said: "It doesn't matter who has hurt you, he must pay the price. This a celebration not just for society, but of the very notions of justice and the rule of law."

The police formally declined to comment on the inclusion of the previously dropped rape charge in the Katzav indictment, but denied that they were "happy and content" with the decision.

However, the police commissioner and other high-ranking officers have been known to be supportive of the investigative team and its insistence to not drop the charge.