Katsav Barred From Prison Canteen Over Refusal to Don Uniform

Disgraced former president sends ex-minister Benizri to buy food for him.

Former President Moshe Katsav, who began a seven-year jail sentence for sex crimes on December 7, has refused to leave his cell area to buy food at the prison canteen, so as not to have to wear a prison uniform.

No items are allowed into the prison, making the canteen the only place prisoners can purchase food, toiletries, clothing and even electric appliances.

Moshe Katsav - Ilan Assayag
Ilan Assayag

Prisoners are permitted to visit the canteen twice a month to buy food and other items, which are meant to last until the next canteen visit. They are allowed to spend up to NIS 1,200 a month of their own money in the canteen.

Prison Service personnel decided to help Katsav out by bringing a list he made of items he wanted to the section commander to buy the products for Katsav. The service has this arrangement for other prisoners, but it is used when the authorities do not want a prisoner to go to the canteen, not when the prisoner refuses to go.

After Prison Service personnel brought the list to the canteen and the items were purchased, the prison allowed Katsav's cellmate, former MK and minister Shlomo Benizri, who is serving a four-year sentence for bribe-taking, to go to the canteen instead of Katsav to pick up the items and bring them back to their cell.

To reach the canteen, Katsav would have to walk a distance of 100 to 150 meters from the section of the prison for religiously-observant convicts where he is housed. He told his guards that he would not walk to the canteen wearing the uniform and if he is not allowed to go in civilian dress, he would give up the right to visit the canteen.

This is not the first time Katsav has refused to don a prison uniform. When Katsav went into prison, he told his jailers he would not receive visitors wearing the uniform. However, the Prison Service told him he would have to abide by the rules. Katsav therefore told his family not to come for their first visit.

He also refused to see his brother and his son, who came to the prison in their capacity as his attorneys, because he was not allowed to meet with them except in prison uniform.

Sources in the prison say Katsav is afraid his picture will be taken in prison garb, because he knows such a photo will be worth a great deal of money to the photographer.

Sources in the Prison Service are reportedly very displeased with Katsav's refusals, but are said to be unwilling under any circumstances to grant Katsav rights that other prisoners do not have.