A parole board discussing former President Moshe Katsav's request for an early release from prison failed to reach a decision Sunday, at a hearing that lasted 11 hours. It will reconvene to discuss the matter again next week.
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The hearing was held behind closed doors and its transcript has been banned for publication. Katsav, who was president of Israel between 2000 and 2007, pleaded to the parole board asking that they reduce his prison term by a third.
Katsav was convicted of rape, commission of an indecent act by force, sexual harassment, and obstruction of justice in 2010. He was sentenced to a seven-year prison sentence, of which he has served over four.
The parole hearing was held at the Maasiyahu Prison, where Katsav is incarcerated.
If the parole board grants Katsav an early release, he is expected to be released from prison next month, when he will complete two-thirds of his term.
The state opposed Katsav's request on the grounds that he has never admitted to the offenses of which he was convicted and hadn't expressed remorse for his actions, which, according to the state, means he hasn’t undergone substantial rehabilitation. The prosecution argues 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.
Arguing on Kastav's behalf, his lawyers Zion Amir and Shani Illouz said that the former president meets all the legal criteria for parole and should be given credit for good behavior. Their argument was supported by a professional opinion which said that he would not pose a danger to the public. Katsav's age was also raised during the hearing in support of his request as well.
Ahead of the hearing, documents were submitted to the parole board on Katsav's behalf indicating that he was meeting with a social worker over the last three years. According to these documents, he admitted to having contact with his victims, but claimed that they were limited to kisses and hugs, which were not of a sexual nature. The Israel Prison Service does not, however, view such talks as a form of therapeutic rehabilitation required by sex offenders.
If prisoners convicted of sexual offenses or other serious cases of violence seek early release, the parole board is required by law to let the victims voice their opinion. The main victim, who has only been identified as A. and who was a 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 A., 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?”