Israel's Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously upheld the Tel Aviv District Court's decision to convict former President Moshe Katsav of two counts of rape and other sexual offenses, and to sentence him to seven years in prison.
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Supreme Court Justices Miriam Naor, Edna Arbel and Salim Joubran entered the courtroom at 9 A.M. on Thursday morning and read a summary of their decision to reject Katsav's appeal of his conviction, unanimously deciding not to intervene in the district court's ruling.
The court decided Katsav would begin serving his seven-year sentence on December 7.
The Supreme Court justices agreed that Katsav had lied when insisting that his sexual relations with the former Tourism Ministry employee, A., were consensual, thus validating her allegations of rape.
Katsav was sentenced this past March to seven years in prison, three months after the Tel Aviv District Court found him of two counts of rape, as well as other sexual offenses against various subordinates during his terms as tourism minister and president.
Katsav decided to appeal the rape conviction and claimed that the sexual relations had with the complainant were consensual.
Some of Katsav's close friends said Wednesday evening, hours before the Supreme Court was to issue its ruling, that Israel's highest body of justice might indeed accept part of his appeal and acquit the former president of the two rape convictions,. Katsav's friends also reasoned that the court might agree to lighten his prison sentence accordingly.
A year-long trial
Katsav was convicted unanimously by a three-judge tribunal of the Tel Aviv District Court in December 2010 on a number of counts of sex offenses: The former president was convicted of raping and sexually assaulting A., a former employee at the Tourism Ministry while Katsav was tourism minister. He was also convicted of sexually harassing H. from the President's Residence; of sexually abusing and harassing L. from the President's Residence and of obstruction of justice.
Judges George Karra, Judith Shevach and Miriam Sokolov sentenced Katsav to seven years in prison in March of this year. The court also ruled that Katsav must also serve two years of probation and pay NIS 100,000 to his rape victim, the former Tourism Ministry employee known as A., and to pay NIS 25,000 to L., who he had sexually harassed and abused.
The year-long trial took place almost entirely behind closed doors and left the public wondering whether the 65-year-old Katsav was wise to drop out of a plea bargain two years ago. The plea deal meant Katsav would not face the most serious charges of rape and promised him a suspended sentence at worse, but the former president decided to fight for his innocence in court.
The judges said Katsav's version of the events was "riddled with lies," and he changed his claims time after time. But the judges disagreed over the sentencing. Karra and Sokolov ruled in favor of the seven-year prison term, but Shevach was in the minority with her recommendation of only four years behind bars. The public, media and legal authorities had already tried Katsav before the trial, she said in justifying a lighter sentence.
"The crime of rape damages and destroys a person's soul ... Due to the severity of the crime, the punishment must be clear and precise," the judges ruled. "The defendant committed the crime and like every other person, he must bear the consequences.
"No man is above the law. The contention that seeing a former president of the country go to jail is too painful to watch is an emotional argument, but it definitely cannot be accepted as an ethical argument," wrote the judges in convicting Katsav.
Katsav's attorneys appealed the conviction to the Supreme Court in May, claiming the District Court had ignored the possibility that Katsav and A. had conducted consensual sexual relations - and not rape. But during questioning by police and in his testimony during the trial, Katsav repeatedly denied that he had had any sexual relations with the complainant.
The Supreme Court panel heard the case in three days of hearings in mid-August. Before that, Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger decided to delay Katsav's imprisonment until the court's ruling on the appeal.
קראו כתבה זו בעברית: שופטי העליון קבעו פה אחד: משה קצב אשם באונס