'Katsav Lied, Manipulated and Withheld Information'

Tel Aviv court judges say former president's defense was riddled with lies all along; Katsav found guilty of two counts of rape and other abuses; State Prosecutor: This is proof everyone is equal in the eyes of the law in Israel.

Former President Moshe Katsav's defense was riddled with lies, according to a court ruling by the judges of the Tel Aviv District Court  on Thursday, who found Katsav guilty of rape and sexual abuse.

Katsav was convicted of raping and sexually assaulting A., a former employee at the Tourism Ministry. He was also convicted of sexually harassing H. from the President's Residence, of sexually abusing and harassing L. from the President's Residence and of obstruction of justice.

According to the court verdict, the judges found that Katsav used edited tapes, partial transcripts, unrealistic datebooks, unfounded statements, and prepared testimonies as part of his court defense.

The judges also found that his testimony was "riddled with lies" and that all along, Katsav  "excelled in manipulation and withholding information."

One of the more serious problems in Katsav's defense was that he presented the court with edited tapes, which manipulated documented conversations between A. and Katsav's insider, Uri Yoeli, about the possibility of A. returning to work for Katsav.

Moshe Katsav
Tal Cohen

The tapes were presented by the defense as evidence that A. was intending to return to work for Katsav after the date of the claimed rape and that for this reason it would not have been probable that A. was actually raped by Katsav.

The judges wrote in the verdict that in the disc of the recordings, "there are only seven conversations, which were taken out of context, and anyone who listens to them can understand that we are dealing with a work of 'editing and revising'."

They added that during Katsav's previous hearing at the attorney's office, his lawyers only presented a printed transcript of the recordings, in a way that the prosecution could not know that they were only a small part of a long line of conversations which underwent heavy editing and revision.

The judges also found that Katsav used Yoeli to fabricate evidence that could have aided Katsav in case A. would break her silence and complain about him. Following the rape and once Katsav became president, Yoeli urged A. to call the President's Residence on several occasions after Yoeli told A. that Katsav was trying to find her a job – conversations which the defense then tried to use in order to show A's "affection" toward the former president.

The judges called the move by Katsav and Yoeli a "devious and manipulative" act, which did not indicate anything about A's relationship with the defendant.

The judges listed many instances where Katsav lied in order to better his defense. Several examples noted by the judges were that Katsav claimed he fired A. during the Likud primaries when later it was found out he fired her afterwards, as well as Katsav lying to the court regarding attending a particular meeting and then being forced to admit otherwise when it was mentioned in a document presented to the court.

The judges wrote that Katsav reached an ultimate low when he used his late father's memorial ceremony, which A. also attended, for his defense by lying and saying that the ceremony took place in May in order to show that it would not have made sense that A. was raped in April and then came to his father's memorial a month afterwards.

Later on Thursday, State Prosecutor Moshe Lador said in response to the proceedings, "This is a hard day for Israel, but these proceedings are proof that in Israel everyone is equal in the eyes of the law." He added that having authority "doesn't give you immunity."

The unanimous verdict was handed down more than four years after complaints surfaced of grave sexual offenses against various subordinates, during Katsav's terms as tourism minister and as president.

The court did not immediately hand down a date for sentencing. Rape carries a minimum prison sentence of four years and a maximum of 16 years.