Jeers Greet Katsav, but Protesters Cheer the Chance to Take Him to Court

A chorus of boos greeted former president Moshe Katsav yesterday as he entered a Jerusalem courthouse, where dozens of demonstrators voiced their disapproval of the plea bargain struck with the State Prosecutor's Office last June.

Women from the Israel Women's Network and other organizations that work to combat sexual violence against women wore shirts bearing the words, "We are all A.," referring to the initial by which several of Katsav's accusers are known.

Their boos quickly turned to cheers as news of the rejection of the plea bargain made its way from the courtroom to outside the courthouse. "Katsav, Katsav, to prison now!," demonstrators chanted as the former president left the courtroom. He is facing a string of complaints for sexual assault.

Women's organizations welcomed Katsav's decision to waive the plea bargain and demanded a harsh indictment reflected in the original charge sheet prepared by the state.

"For nearly a year, since Katsav sought to sign the plea bargain, he and his lawyers have mocked the Israeli public and especially the attorney general," the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel said in a statement. "During this time the victims have suffered an unnecessary delay of justice. We expect the original indictment to be served, not the reduced indictment on which the plea bargain was based."

The director of WIZO's Department for the Advancement of the Status of Women, Ronit Ehrenfreund, also said that her organization demands that Katsav be dealt with harshly and that the rape charges be restored to the indictment.

"The more I think about it, the more it looks like sorry, dishonorable tricks," said the head of the Israel Women's Network, Rina Bar-Tal. "Katsav's attorneys could have announced it to the High Court but they wanted to play for time. From the perspective of the women's organizations, it's a happy day because now it can be told from the witness stand what that man did to so many women throughout his public history."

Na'at chair Tali Livneh said she had figured from the beginning that there was no place for a plea bargain in the case. "I praise Katsav's decision to fight for his innocence. The state deserves to have a proper trial," she said.

"I'm not happy about anything connected to this move," added attorney Ifat Matzner, who appealed the High Court of Justice against the plea bargain about two weeks ago. "From the outset we wanted to cancel the plea bargain. There is definitely a chance that a genuine trial will be conducted now and that the court will decide the way we wanted."

MK Orit Noked (Labor) likened Katsav's behavior to "spitting in the face of the judicial system and the State Prosecutor's Office."