Israel's Rapist Ex-president Moshe Katsav to Be Set Free on Parole

Katsav, who was sentenced to seven years in prison for rape, is going free after five years. 'There is no doubt that the prisoner has undergone a change,' parole board declares. Decision is cowardly and tainted, Meretz MKs say.

An archive photo from April 2015 showing ex-President Moshe Katsav leaving prison for a Passover furlough.
Nir Keidar

Israel's ex-president Moshe Katsav, who is serving a prison sentence for rape, was granted early release by a parole board on Sunday, despite the prosecution's objection to the move.

Katsav will have served five out of the seven years he was sentenced to. The prosecution has asked the court to delay his release by a week, during which it will decide whether to appeal the decision.

"There's no doubt among the committee members that the prisoner has undergone a change. This, in light of the remarks he expressed to the committee members in the current hearing, unlike the things he said in the past two hearings," the parole board wrote.

"The prisoner was asked many questions by the committee members regarding the circumstances of the offense, the victims' positions, his attitude to the victims and his understanding of his acts and their consequences, and the committee members were impressed by the honesty of his intentions," it added. 

Odelia Carmon, one of Katsav's victims, condemned the parole board's decision.

"I feel that Israeli society has reached the edge of the abyss," she said. On the same day that lawmaker Nissan Slomiansky suspended himself after sexual harassment claims, admired general Ofek Buchris admitted to sexual offenses and a rabbi was indicted for rape, "the parole board decided to make this horrible decision," Carmon said.

Carmon was Katsav's media adviser and was known as O. from the Transportation Ministry during the proceedings against him. According to her, Katsav only expressed his remorse in a weak, feeble voice before the members of the parole board. The parole board's decision impacts all women in Israel, she added.

Katsav, who served as Israel’s eighth president from 2000 to 2007, was convicted in 2010 of raping and sexually assaulting a former employee at the Tourism Ministry. He was also convicted of sexually harassing another woman at the President's Residence, and of sexually abusing and harassing another woman from the President's Residence. Katsav was also convicted of obstruction of justice.

Once he returns home to the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi, Katsav will begin a prisoner rehabilitation program. He will be on house arrest between 10 P.M. and 6 A.M. for the remainder of his sentence. He will also be required to attend Jewish studies, take part in a weekly support group and meet with a psychosocial therapist. He is forbidden to give interviews and work in positions where he has authority over women. 

The parole board met  a week ago to discuss the appeal. The State Prosecutor's Office again opposed an early release. 

The board rejected Katsav's request in August, when he had completed serving two thirds of his sentence.  The board said at the time it would hold another hearing half a year later.

In August, the board left in force a decision from April not to cut the former president’s prison term, despite a recommendation from a rehabilitation committee that an inmate may be freed even without admitting guilt or expressing regret.

Meretz MKs Zehava Galon, Michal Rozin and Tamar Zandberg called the parole board's decision cowardly and tainted, saying the board surrendered to manipulations and agreed to a rehabilitation plan drawn up especially for him outside the prison. "Katsav used his political power in order to rape and now he is exploiting this same political power in order to receive early release," they said in a statement.

"Today the parole board ignored the public interest and the terrible message it is sending  in this decision: That it is possible to rape women and escape from it cheaply, in particular if you have connections. The women who Katsav abused  will continue to pay the price for the acts he committed against them, the price of the persecution, the lies and threats that arrived because of their complaints," said the Meretz MKs.