Judges Known for Punishing Crime Bosses to Rule in Katsav Case

T.A. District Court judges Karra, Sokolov and Shevach are known for imposing harsh sentences on underworld figures.

Moshe Katsav's lawyer said on Sunday he was not concerned that all three judges presiding over the former president's sex offenses trial have imposed harsh sentences on underworld figures.

"If I didn't believe that judges in Israel ultimately decide on every case based solely on the evidence, I would have quit this profession a long time ago," said Zion Amir. "I'm there because I honestly and fully believe that a judge comes to a trial to do everything he can, to the best of his understanding, to have a fair trial."

The Tel Aviv District Court announced on Sunday that the judicial panel for Katsav's trial will be comprised of George Karra, Miriam Sokolov and Judith Shevach.

Katsav was indicted earlier this month on charges of rape, indecent assault and sexual harassment. The indictment focuses on the accusations of a female aide who served as Katsav's bureau chief during his tenure as tourism minister. It also includes allegations that he sexually harassed two female employees at the President's Residence. The former president is also charged with obstruction of justice.

Karra, who will lead the panel, sentenced 16 members of the Iyat-Hariri crime ring to up to 15 years in prison. His life has been threatened as a result of that case, and he has a bodyguard. Karra recently presided over a bribery case involving officials at El Al, Bezeq and Bank Hapoalim, though he is inexperienced in cases involving sex offenses.

Karra worked as a lawyer between 1975 and 1989, until he was appointed a Magistrate's Court judge. The Katsav trial will be his first time heading a judicial panel in a case involving serious criminal charges since he become a Tel Aviv District Court judge in May 2000.

Sokolov, who was appointed to the court in July 2002, was a member of the judicial panel that sentenced members of a crime ring said to be led by Marwan Nasser to up to 15 years in prison. She is currently one of the judges at the trial of alleged crime boss Asi Abutbul.

Sokolov has extensive experience in cases involving sex offenses, and last year was on the panel that sentenced Eitan Farhi, known to police as the "DNA rapist," to 25 years in prison for raping a 20-year-old woman and a teenage girl, despite the defense's argument that the DNA evidence was obtained illegally. But in another rape case, she sentenced the defendant to only four years in jail.

Sokolov worked in the office of the Tel Aviv prosecution between 1971 and 1976, served as registrar of the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court until 1988, and was then appointed a Magistrate's Court judge. She became registrar of the Tel Aviv District Court in 1995.

Shevach, the third judge in the Katsav trial, recently sat on a panel that sentenced the heads of a crime ring involved in drug dealing to between 25 and 27 years in jail.

She was appointed to the Tel Aviv District Court in January 2006, after extensive experience in civil suits. The appointment followed a 12-year stint as a Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court judge; she became vice president of that court in 2001.