Katsav's Lawyers: Chances of Appealing Rape Verdict Are Good

Avigdor Feldman, who is representing the former president, says the 'court gave the public what it wanted' by convicting his client of rape, indecent assault, and sexual harassment.

Former president Moshe Katsav met with his lawyers on Monday for the first time since his conviction on charges of rape, indecent assault and sexual harassment on Thursday.

The meeting with attorneys Avidgor Feldman, Zion Amir and Avraham Lavie took place at Katsav's home in Kiryat Malakhi in the presence of members of his family, where Katsav's legal options in his case were explored.

Katsav's lawyers - Ilan Assayag - Jan. 3, 2010
Ilan Assayag

Parties to the meeting refused to disclose the content of the discussions or whether the former president was inclined to appeal his conviction by the Tel Aviv District Court.

Over the weekend, Feldman told Haaretz that despite the decisiveness of the judges' ruling, he believes the chances of overturning the verdict on appeal are good. There is a prevailing view, however, that since the verdict is based in large measure on a finding of credibility of the witness testimony against Katsav, the Supreme Court would not be inclined to interfere with the district court's judgment.

This would make prospects for a successful appeal low, particularly in light of the fact that the district court verdict was unanimous.

Feldman said, however, that the appeal would turn not only on the witnesses' credibility but also on legal issues. He cited, for example, the legal principle that the prosecution has the burden of proof against Katsav, including proving the complainants' lack of consent to sexual relations.

Feldman said the court's verdict relied instead on Katsav's failure to prove his innocence.

Feldman said the district court improperly rejected the argument that Katsav could be acquitted based on alternate arguments that he either did not have sexual relations with the complainants, as Katsav had testified, or, as his attorneys argued, if he did it was consensual.

Feldman also said the district court made reference to a letter presented as evidence and interpreted in a way that is contrary to what anyone else would infer from it.

That is why there is an appeal process, he noted, adding that he had recently successfully appealed two convictions, one of which had carried a 14-year prison sentence, despite the fact that the cases turned on the credibility of the witnesses.

"The court gave the public what it wanted," Feldman said about the Katsav case.