Katsav Lawyer Says Ex-president's Hugs Were Not Sexual Harassment

Amir says Katsav's legal team had found not one other case where a hug was considered sexual harassment, adds police had looked 'high and low' for a complainant in the affair.

The media handed down a "cannibalistic" punishment to former President Moshe Katsav, one of his attorneys told the Supreme Court Wednesday, the second day of hearings on the former president's appeal against his conviction for rape and other sexual offenses.

Wednesday the hearing focused on the indecent acts and sexual harassment Katsav commited against two women who worked for him at the President's Residence. Katsav attorney Zion Amir told justices Miriam Naor, Edna Arbel and Salim Jubran that "it is unsure how many hugs there were, and if there was more than one, what type it was. Were these sexual actions and did they have a connotation of harassment?"

Amir said that "at least in the case of some of the hugs, it may be said that perhaps it was an innocent hug."

Amir said Katsav's legal team had found not one other case where a hug was considered sexual harassment. He said the police had looked "high and low" for a complainant in the affair.

Amir said that the during petitions to the High Court pertaining to the plea bargain (from which Katsav withdrew at the last moment ), the justices clearly heard that the evidence was particularly weak with regard to the woman known as A. from the Tourism Ministry.

"What can be said about a system that afterward decides to submit an indictment with A. from the Tourism Ministry," Amir asked.

Naor responded, "They believed that the evidence was borderline. They did not say 'we have no evidence.'"

Arbel added that evidence could not be quantified simply. "It is a matter of evaluation," she said. "The district court heard evidence and ruled as it ruled."

The representative of the prosecution, Naomi Granot, conceded that the prosecution considered the evidence borderline at first, based on how it believed the court might respond to the witnesses, but that fact has no bearing on the current situation, because the district court had all the evidence it needed.

Amir also attacked the media's conduct during the Katsav trial, which he said had influenced the district court from the beginning.

After such reports, "Katsav would convict himself," Amir said.

"How is it possible for such a legal proceeding not to be contaminated and the all the basic rights of the accused, who came bruised to the courtroom, not be trampled," Amir said.

"Public figures, the higher they are, the more they write about them. Does that mean they can't be judged," Arbel asked in response.

With regard to the sentence, Amir said the District Court, which sentenced the former president to seven years in prison, did not take into consideration the extent to which Katsav had been demonized in the press.

Amir said Katsav should have been given a lighter sentence considering the time that had passed since the rapes and the beginning of the police investigation, because evidence could not be collected in real time, and that Katsav had been harshly punished in the public eye.

"One's heart aches and weeps. How many satire shows mocked him. Five years he is imprisoned at home. Should more punishment be added?" Amir said.