Defense: Katsav Won't Get Fair Trial

Moshe Katsav is being persecuted by state authorities and cannot receive a fair trial, his defense attorneys said yesterday. The former president stands accused of sexual assault.

The attorneys cited legal documents prepared by the Jerusalem District Court, which indicated that the judges who were to hear his plea bargain were planning to reject the deal, sentence Katsav to a prison term, and rule his offenses involved moral turpitude.

"Documents show the court's sentencing would be part of the public lynching carried out by law enforcement authorities, the prosecution and now, as it turns out, the courts, even before a court date was set or he was indicted," they argued in a letter to judicial ombudswoman Tova Strasbourg-Cohen.

Katsav's lawyers said they planned to send the letter to Defense Minister Daniel Freidmann and ask him to intervene.

"It seems like every day a new boundary is crossed in the hasty trial of our client," Katsav's lawyers claimed.

The former president's legal team will also ask Strasbourg-Cohen to investigate the document and whether it would have affected the ruling in the hearing on the plea bargain.

Last month, Katsav surprisingly rejected the plea bargain struck with the state prosecution, whereby he would have admitted to sexual misconduct in return for a suspended sentence and compensating several of the complainants.

In the wake of the dramatic development, officials in the State Prosecutor's Office said a new indictment may contain more serious charges - possibly including rape - which were dropped in the deal with the former president.