Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked several weeks ago discussed with President Reuven Rivlin the possibility of pardoning former president Moshe Katsav, who is serving a seven-year prison term for rape, Haaretz has learned.
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Shaked had come to the President’s Residence for other reasons, but raised the idea during the conversation she had with Rivlin. Rivlin apparently rejected the notion, saying a pardon for Katsav was irrelevant at this time, sources said.
Rivlin’s office issued a statement denying a Channel 10 report over the weekend that he supported pardoning Katsav.
“The president has not expressed support for pardoning Moshe Katsav,” the statement said. “The president will discuss the issue and formulate a position if and when he is asked to do so, and only after getting all the relevant considerations required to make a decision, as he does with every other pardon request he receives.”
Shaked’s associates claim that she did not raise the issue with Rivlin because she’s waiting for a decision on Katsav’s case by a parole board scheduled to meet on March 27.
“The minister and the president met at a judicial appointments ceremony as they meet many other times. The two did not discuss the issue because it is pending before the parole board,” the sources said.
Rivlin has a pardon request that was submitted by Katsav in 2012, when Shimon Peres was still president. Peres never addressed it, but did not reject it, either. That request, however, was accompanied by the recommendation of then Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who, based on the professional opinions of the Justice Ministry’s pardons department, objected to granting Katzav a pardon. “I informed the then–president, after receiving the recommendations of the parole board, that I opposed a pardon, just as I had done in the cases of other sex offenders who were less well known,” Livni said in a statement on Sunday. “It is one of the decisions I’m more than satisfied with, then and now.”
If there’s a need for a more updated opinion because the justice ministers have changed or circumstances have changed, the president’s legal adviser asks the pardons department for an updated position from the minister or the professional staff. According to sources involved in the process, the president has not sought this information. What’s more, according to information given to Haaretz, Shaked has never examined Katsav’s file or the professional recommendations included in it.
Katsav’s family or attorneys can also ask for an updated opinion from the Justice Ministry, but no such request has come from them, either.
Channel 10 reported that Katsav was likely to be freed by the parole board after serving two-thirds of his sentence. A pardon would be a separate option for Katsav if he is not freed on parole.
In March 2011, Katsav was found guilty of rape, indecent assault, sexual harassment and obstruction of justice. He began serving his sentence on December 7, 2011.
The prosecution has yet to formulate the position it plans to present to the parole board. Discussions on the issue are taking into account that Katsav has not expressed remorse and in fact continues to deny any wrongdoing. The parole board, by law, must also inform the victims of his crimes of his possible early release and give them the opportunity to express their objections. The opinions of the victims have not yet been received.
The possibility of Katsav being pardoned, particularly so close to the parole board meeting, has unleashed substantial criticism over the last few days.
“Early release [by a parole board] is a decision by a professional committee that takes into account all the considerations,” said Dr. Dana Pogatch, who heads the Noga Legal Center for Crime Victims at Ono Academic College. “A pardon is a favor bestowed on the criminal, which is why I think it could be a ringing slap in the face to the victims.”
The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel and the One out of One association, which helps victims of sexual crimes report them, wrote to Shaked and Rivlin, saying, “Moshe Katsav is a serial sex criminal, and the fact that he is a former president should not be a factor in favor of his release; on the contrary. Not only has he never expressed remorse for his actions, he spread lies about his victims and continued to emotionally abuse them during his trial.”