Parole Board Delays Ruling on ex-Israeli President Katsav's Early Release Bid Until Wednesday

Katsav has served four years of seven-year sentence after 2011 rape conviction; prosecution opposes early release on grounds that he hasn’t shown remorse for his actions.

Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav outside of prison, 2012.
Moti Milrod

A parole board on Sunday delayed ruling on a request by former Israeli president and convicted rapist Moshe Katsav for an early prison release until Wednesday, apparently due to differences among the panel members over rehabilitative options for the ex-president.

If parole is granted, Katsav, who stepped down from the presidency in disgrace over the rape cases about a decade ago,  would be freed from incarceration in the near future. Katsav's attorney would likely appeal any decision against granting parole to an administrative court in Lod.

Katsav has served more than four years of a seven-year jail sentence after being convicted of rape and other offenses related to sexual in 2011.

One of the issues delaying a decision about whether or not to grant Katsav an early release is arranging rehabilitative treatment, and a rule that generally such treatment can only be provided to offenders who express remorse for their actions, which Katsav has not done, as he  denies any wrongdoing.

The rehabilitation authority has been examining options in the past few days and asked for another two weeks to decide.

But Judge Moshe Michlis rejected their request on Sunday and said the board's decision would be submitted on Wednesday.

A prosecution source told Haaretz that, from its perspective, Katsav, 70, is a serial sex offender with a narcissistic personality who is not prepared to apologize for his actions. The fact he still refuses to recognize his rape conviction is making the prosecution insist that he not be released early, the source said.

The prosecution also claims that Katsav has not undergone a real process of rehabilitation, adding that early release would send a problematic message to victims of sexual offenses and damage the public’s trust in the judicial system.

Sources in the prosecutor’s office noted that Katsav’s testimony in the last hearing argued that his conviction was the result of a misunderstanding on the part of the women involved. This shows he still doesn’t recognize the seriousness of his offenses, they said.

Sources who have seen the parole hearing transcript said that Katsav claimed he had close relationships with the complainants, but because they were young and generally inexperienced, they didn’t understand the nature of the relationship and interpreted it differently.

The president reportedly told the parole board that he is prepared to apologize to anyone he hurt, but that any such apology would be over a misunderstanding and not rape.

Katsav came to the last hearing accompanied by four lawyers, including lead attorney Zion Amir, who reportedly slammed the female complainants. If Amir’s comments also reflect Katsav’s views, there are no grounds for shortening his jail term, the sources said.

Amir said that one complainant – who has been identified only as A., whom Katsav was convicted of raping twice – is now married with children and is not suffering any trauma. Katsav’s continued incarceration would not benefit her in any way other than for the sake of revenge, Amir noted. Despite the two rape convictions, Amir insisted that the situation involved a misunderstanding and an embrace that was misinterpreted.

Amir described another of Katsav’s accusers, Odelia Karmon, as an obsessive woman who had pursued Katsav for 10 years. It was Katsav who was pursued by the women and not the other way around, his lawyers claimed.

Various sources in the prosecutor’s office and the Israel Prison Service noted that the division of responsibility between Katsav and his lawyers was clear. Katsav was appealing to the emotions of the parole board members, while his counsel sought to tarnish the reputations of those opposing a shorter sentence. In his remarks, Katsav reportedly spoke of the insult he has felt, the damage to his good name and how he’s had to endure humiliating inspections in prison.

Prison service staff argued in response that the inspections are conducted on all prisoners, and Katsav is no different from the others in this regard. Katsav also claimed he had not gone for medical treatment outside of prison because he didn’t want to be photographed in prison garb. At one stage in his testimony, the former president broke down after he started talking about his family. If and when he is released, he said, he has no intention to reenter public life at his advanced age and only wants to return to his family.

If his sentence is not reduced by the parole board, Katsav can appeal to the district court and the Supreme Court. If that fails, he can submit a new request in six months’ time.