Family of Israel's Rapist Ex-president Met With Rivlin to Lobby for Clemency

Moshe Katsav's brother, wife and daughter met with current president at least twice in past year; Katsav denies reports of depression.


Relatives of former president Moshe Katsav, who is in prison for rape and other sexual offenses, have met with President Reuven Rivlin at least twice over the past year, apparently to discuss a possible pardon for the disgraced Israeli leader.

The first meeting, which took place around a year ago, was attended by Katsav’s wife Gila and daughter. The second meeting, which took in January, involved other family members, reportedly Katsav’s brother.

Moshe Katzav accompanied by his wife, Gila, leaving Maasiyahu Prison for his Passover furlough, April 2015.
Nir Keidar

Rivlin’s associates say it is routine for him to meet with prisoners’ families, and he meets with dozens of families every year. Moreover, the sources said that during the last meeting with Katsav’s relatives neither the parole board meeting on Katsav’s case nor a pardon was discussed. Katsav has been in Maasiyahu Prison since December 2011.

Katsav’s relatives had previously initiated a meeting with officials from Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked's office, as part of efforts to lay groundwork for the former president's parole board hearings, which began late March. According to the relatives, the meeting with Shaked’s people had been encouraging, in contrast to the meeting at the President’s Residence. They said the minister conveyed the message that if the president favored a pardon, she would support his release.

On April 6, however, the parole board decided not to commute Katsav’s sentence to two-thirds of time served because, inter alia, he steadfastly maintains his innocence and has never expressed any form of regret for his actions. Though Katsav plans to submit another request for a clemency shortly, he is still unwilling to admit to his crimes or express remorse to his victims.

Through his relatives, Katsav on Sunday denied earlier reports that he was in a deep depression. The Israel Prison Service (IPS) also said that in contrast to reports in Israeli media, there was no change in Katsav’s physical or emotional state, and that the effort to portray Katsav as having developed psychiatric problems is baseless.

If Katsav was ever determined by the IPS to be seriously disturbed enough to pose a risk to himself, he would likely be removed from the wing he is in and placed in a specially secured cell. He could even be tied to his bed to prevent any self-harm.

The President's Residence responded that Rivlin would consider Katsav’s request for a pardon “as he considers any other pardon request,” adding that no new request from Katsav had been received.