Former President Moshe Katsav appeared at a parole board hearing on Sunday, seeking a reduction of one-third of his prison term. The former president has served more than four years of his seven-year sentence for rape, commission of an indecent act by force, sexual harassment and obstruction of justice.
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The state is slated to oppose the request on the grounds that Katsav has never admitted to the offenses of which he was convicted, didn’t express remorse and therefore hasn’t undergone substantial rehabilitation. The prosecution is also expected to argue that granting parole under such circumstances would send the wrong message to victims of sexual offenses and could do damage to the public’s faith in the judicial system.
For his part, Katsav is expected to argue that he meets all the legal criteria for parole and should be given credit for good behavior. He is also expected to rely on a professional opinion that he would not pose a danger to the public. He is 70 years old and is expected to raise his age in support of the request as well.
Speaking at a women’s conference, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said she did not intend to intervene in the decision of the parole board, but said that admitting to a crime and expressions of remorse are not criteria that apply to the decision of early release. “They are of course considered in the context of the capacity of rehabilitation of every prisoner,” she added. Responding to reports that she would support a bid by Katsav for a pardon from the current president Reuven Rivlin, she said she had never been asked to weigh in on such a prospect and has never looked into the details or opened the file on the matter.
Associates of President Rivlin have said that Shaked raised the question of a pardon with him several weeks ago at a judicial appointment conference, but Rivlin purportedly responded that he would wait for the parole board’s decision. Shaked denied that she brought up the issue, saying that it was not mentioned because Katsav’s case is still pending before the parole board. Justice Ministry sources have said it would be very difficult to pardon Katsav if the parole board declines his request for early release.
If prisoners convicted of sexual offenses or other serious cases of violence seek early release, the parole board is required to let the victims voice their opinion. The main victim, who has only been identified as A. and who was a Tourism Ministry employee when Katsav was the minister of tourism, sent a letter to the parole board opposing Katsav’s early release. “While he was sitting in jail, Katsav and those acting for him conducted a smear campaign against me,” wrote the victim, according to Channel 10. “The thought of what could happen with his release is making me feel as if I would be facing a tsunami,” she wrote. “Hasn’t he harmed me enough?”