Former President's Lawyer: Katsav May Have Lied, but He Didn't Rape Girl

Avigdor Feldman describes several alternate possibilities for the nature of the relations between Katsav and A. from the Tourism Ministry.

The lawyer appealing former President Moshe Katsav's rape conviction suggested in court yesterday that his client might have lied when he denied having sex with his accuser, but that there had been no rape.

Avigdor Feldman described several alternate possibilities for the nature of the relations between Katsav and A. from the Tourism Ministry, whom he was convicted of raping twice when he was tourism minister, once in a Jerusalem hotel room and once in his Tel Aviv office.

Katsav - Ilan Assayag - 18072011
Ilan Assayag

It's possible, said Feldman, that there were no sexual relations at all between Katsav and A.; that they were intimate but never actually had intercourse; that they had full consensual sexual relations; or that they had sexual relations that were not fully consensual, but were a consequence of the authority he had over her.

Katsav raised none of these possibilities during his questioning by police, nor during his testimony in Tel Aviv District Court, where he denied having any sexual relations with A.

When Justice Salim Joubran, one of the three Supreme Court justices hearing the appeal, said, "You could have resolved these questions if Katsav had submitted his own version [of events]," Feldman replied, "The alternative version doesn't have to come straight from the accused."

As an example of how a court must examine all the evidence, and not necessarily gain its impressions solely from witnesses, Feldman cited the John Demjanjuk case.

On the one hand, he was identified as "Ivan the Terrible" by people who had worked with him, while during the appeal the state brought evidence that Ivan the Terrible was someone else.

Katsav was convicted in December of two counts of rape and other sexual offenses, and was sentenced in March to seven years' imprisonment.

He was present in court yesterday, but spoke up only once, asking to respond to claims that he had used his presence at a memorial ceremony for his father as an alibi.

Feldman attacked A.'s credibility, noting that she had sent Katsav a letter wishing him a good new year, after the two rapes of which he was convicted.

He argued that during her questioning by police, and later in court, A. had repeatedly changed her version of why she had sent that letter.

Feldman objected to the fact that the Tel Aviv District Court had based Katsav's conviction on A.'s testimony, even though, he said, she seemed to suffer memory losses all through her testimony, with "the details remaining totally vague," with no basis in evidence.

Joubran responded, "You can't expect the plaintiff to have kept a diary, 'At this hour, he did this or that to me.' This was all after several years.'

And Justice Miriam Naor added, "Testimony is evidence. You can't say, 'there was no evidence.'"

Feldman added that while defendants are meant to arrive in court with a presumption of innocence and that their fate is to be determined on the basis of the evidence, Katsav was considered guilty from the start.

"The district court did something it is forbidden to do: It took the plaintiff's version of events and adapted it, making it fit the facts. The facts contravene her version," he said.

Two more hearings in the appeal are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, and will continue next week if necessary.