Culture Minister Miri Regev asked Israel's prison service for leniency for former President Moshe Katsav and businessman David Appel when she headed the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee. All three were members of the Likud party.
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The request emerged from a report, obtained by Haaretz, on a July 2013 visit Regev paid the two at Ma’asiyahu Prison. The Interior Committee is responsible for overseeing the prison service.
According to the report, Regev asked the prison service why Katsav, who had been sentenced to seven years for offenses including rape and obstruction of justice, could not receive a furlough for Rosh Hashanah, which in 2013 fell on a Thursday and Friday.
At the time, Katsav was not entitled to a furlough for longer than 48 hours, and if he had gone home for the holiday he would have had to remain there for the Sabbath starting Friday evening. That would have meant leaving on Wednesday afternoon and returning after Shabbat, much more time than he was entitled to.
Regev’s request was denied by senior prison service officials, who believed that agreeing would draw flak from the public and media.
Regev also visited Appel, a former Likud activist, who was sentenced to three and a half years for bribery. According to the report, Regev asked when Appel could begin his rehabilitation and at what point his case could be brought to the parole board to request that a third of his sentence be reduced for good behavior. Appel was released in 2014 after his sentence was shortened by a third.
Regev’s office says the visit to the prison was part of her job at the time. But sources familiar with the report and Regev’s visit said it seemed Regev used her position as Interior Committee chief to visit the two men and see what could be done for them.
“These two prisoners aren’t the first that need their prison conditions examined,” said one source. “President Katsav is under supervision and Appel was also in an open, quiet wing where the living conditions are good. It was clear to everyone what the purpose of the visit was and why in the summary report it was written in the most clear way that Regev was waiting for answers.”
Two other prisoners Regev visited were crime bosses Asi Abutbul and Yossi Musli. At the time, Musli’s crime organization was in the midst of a power struggle with the Yitzhak Abergil crime group, a battle that took the lives of at least 16 people and required enormous police resources.
Regev’s office said: “As part of her job as head of the Interior Committee, Regev was responsible for issues relating to prisoners’ rights, so these were official visits in that capacity. During her visits to various prisons, Regev met with dozens of other prisoners in different wings of Israeli prisons, including surprise visits and a visit to the Neveh Tirtza women’s prison.”
According to the statement, “Regev made sure to deal with every request she got from prisoners as part of moral and professional obligation required by her public office.”