Israeli Attorney General Recuses Himself From Rapist Ex-president's Early Release Request

Avichai Mendelblit cites prior acquaintance with Moshe Katsav, deferring his role in forming the government's position to the state prosecutor.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit.
Mark Israel Salem

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced on Thursday evening that he will not be involved in the formulation of the state’s position regarding the possible parole of former president Moshe Katsav, who is serving a seven year sentence for rape, because of a prior acquaintance with him.

Mendelblit took part in a meeting on Wednesday regarding Katsav's future with State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and other professionals from the State Prosecutor’s Office. At the meeting it was decided that the state will formulate its position this coming week. Since Mendelblit decided not to be involved with the issue, Nitzan will fulfill this role.

The discussions in recent days at the State Prosecutor’s Office have been taking into account the fact that the former president has not expressed remorse and has not taken responsibility for the deeds of which he was convicted – rape, sexual assault, sexual assault with use of force, sexual harassment and interfering with judicial processes.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said on Monday that she does not intend to intervene in the process, but added that Katsav does not need to express remorse for his crimes in order to be paroled.

"A confession and remorse are not criteria [for an early release]," said Shaked. "They are, of course, taken into account by the [parole board] committee as part of any prisoner's capacity for rehabilitation."

The justice minister also refuted allegations that she has interfered in the case, saying, "Personally, I have never been asked to discuss the subject of Katsav and have never opened the file or examined the facts."

Haaretz reported on Sunday that Shaked had discussed the possibility of a pardon for Katsav with current President Reuven Rivlin several weeks prior.

Rivlin apparently rejected the idea, saying that a pardon for Katsav was irrelevant at this time.

A senior source at the Justice Ministry told Haaretz that it will be very difficult to push through a pardon of Katsav if the Parole Board turns down his request for early release.

In compliance with legal proceedings, the board contacted Katsav's victims to recieve their stance on removing 1/3 of jail time from his sentence. The main complainant expressed her opposition to his release and wrote in a letter published by Channel 10 that, "the justice - the conviction and jail sentence of someone who has hurt and destroyed the lives of many women - helped me bring quiet to my life."