Report: Ex-president Katsav Likely to Be Freed From Prison This Month

Parole committee due to decide whether to reduce his sentence on March 27. Katsav has not expressed remorse for committing rape.

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

Former president Moshe Katsav is likely to be released from prison at the end of this month, Channel 10 TV reported on Friday night.

Katsav's fate will be decided by a parole committee that is due to meet on March 27 to decide whether to reduce his sentence by a third.

Katsav was found guilty on two counts of rape in March 2011 and sentenced to seven years imprisonment. He began serving his sentence in Maasiyahu Prison on December 7, 2011.

Even if the parole committee does not reduce Katsav's sentence by a third, he could be pardoned by President Reuven Rivlin or Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

According to the TV report, Shaked told associates on Friday that "there's no reason that the parole committee should not release former president Katsav. He meets all the criteria."

Katzav has not expressed remorse for his actions. Parole committees normally require that prisoners serving sentences for sex offences express remorse and agree to participate in a rehabilitation program before shortening their sentences.

If the committee decides to reduce Katsav's sentence, his release is expected to be immediate.

Sources close to the justice minister said she has yet to attend to the issue and will wait for the parole board's hearing before weighing in on his release.

Sources from the office of the president, who has the clemency powers, said they too have yet to reach a decision regarding Katzav's request for a pardon, filed while Shimon Peres was still in office. They said a decision would likely be reached after the committee announces its decision.

Meretz leader Zahava Galon and other members of her party called on Rivlin and Shaked not to bypass the decision of the parole board if it decides not to release Katsav.

"A professional committee headed by a judge has been given the responsibility in order to prevent politicians from bypassing court decisions," they said. "It's unacceptable that politicians from Katsav's side of the political spectrum should make decisions in his case and place themselves above the professionals."

"It's not just a question of Moshe Katsav's behavior and his failure to express remorse or take responsibility for his actions," the MKs said, "but also of the need to deter the abuse of positions of power and violence against women."

Knesset Member Tzipi Livni said: "I already withstood the Katsav test when, as justice minister, I refused a request for pardon. I told the president at the time, after receiving the report of the parole board, that I was opposed to giving him a pardon, just as I acted in the cases of other, lesser known, sex offenders.

Zionist Union lawmaker Merav Michaeli also blasted the news, saying "those involved should remember that the former president has never taken responsibility or expressed remorse for the horrendous actions for which he was convicted, a precondition for clemency. Katzav's victims have already reached out to me fearing that a convicted rapist will be set free because he has friends in government. We cannot allow this to happen."