Court Lifts Gag on Testimony in Rape Trial of Former President Katsav

Testimony heard during former president Moshe Katsav's ongoing rape trial shows that he "viewed the women under him as a reservoir, from which he chose some as sexual objects," the prosecution claimed in its summation.

Former president Moshe Katsav (second left) arriving in court with his defense team in 2009.
Archive / Moti Kimche

The trial has so far been under a sweeping gag order. On Saturday, however, the Tel Aviv District Court released transcripts of the prosecution and defense summations.

Prosecutors Ronit Amiel and Nissim Merom also accused Katsav of a "tortuous, manipulative and cunning" response to the charges, "designed entirely to blind the court's eyes."

Katsav is charged with raping a former employee while serving as tourism minister, sexually assaulting two others as president, and obstructing justice. He has denied all the charges.

The prosecution's summation accused Katsav of abusing his authority as the women's boss, as well as the fact that their jobs made it impossible to avoid him, in order to satisfy his sexual urges. Among other things, he gave "emphatic and flattering attention ... and clear professional backing to his victims, in comparison to other workers in these offices."

The goal of this preferential treatment, the summation said, was to obtain the victims' consent to his sexual acts, since the evidence shows that he "did not derive pleasure from using force, and indeed generally did not use physical force to achieve his goals. His lofty position was enough to enable him to bring his sexual designs on his employees to fruition."

Nevertheless, it continued, "the defendant did not hesitate to permit himself limited use of physical force" when he thought it was safe to do so.

The prosecutors also argued that Katsav knew his deeds would eventually come to light, and therefore prepared by collecting and saving letters and other items, often "for years," that he thought might help him refute sex crime charges.

The defense, in its summation, accused the prosecution of a "nauseating ... demonization of the defendant."

The indictment, wrote attorneys Avigdor Feldman, Zion Amir and Avraham Lavie, stemmed entirely from "gossips who didn't utter a word for decades, but then suddenly opened their mouths wide thanks to the police and, with all due respect, this court."

They disputed the prosecution's claim that the complainants' testimony was credible, citing what they termed severe problems in the women's evidence. They also accused the key witness, A. from the Tourism Ministry, of being "a manipulative woman who manufactures endless lying explanations every time her story is rebutted by objective evidence." In proof of this, they quoted the prosecution's own submission to the High Court of Justice, in which it detailed all the problems with A.'s police testimony.

That submission was made in defense of a plea bargain that the prosecution initially signed with Katsav, but which he later repudiated.

The defense summation also questioned whether the court was capable of doing justice to Katsav at all, given the "ocean of hate, the slanders that were spread by every media outlet, some of which even reached this court."

Aside from reporting on the case extensively before it went to court, journalists such as Ilana Dayan and MK Shelly Yachimovich also served as witnesses, giving their impressions of the complainants' credibility during the media interviews they conducted with them. Other witnesses included the three complainants, four other women whose complaints were not included in the indictment because the statute of limitations on them had expired, and co-workers, relatives and friends of the women.

When the trial first opened about a year ago, the judges said it would be closed to the press, but they would allow publication of any testimony that did not infringe on the complainants' privacy. In practice, however, they released the testimony of exactly one witness - attorney Raz Nizri, an aide to then-attorney general Menachem Mazuz, who described the prosecution's internal debate over whether to indict Katsav, and if so, on what charges.

Other than that, nothing has been released except parts of both sides' opening statements - and, on Saturday, parts of their closing statements as well. As a result, nothing specific can be reported about either the complainants' accounts of Katsav's actions or the defense's attempts to poke holes in these accounts.

A verdict is expected sometime this fall.