Katsav Trial Delayed as Sides Argue Over Evidence

The trial of former president Moshe Katsav, which was supposed to begin today, has been postponed for two weeks at the request of both sides, after prosecution and defense failed to reach an agreement on which evidentiary material Katsav's attorneys were entitled to receive.

By law, the prosecution is supposed to give all relevant material to the defendant. In the prosecution's view, this means only the material relevant to the charges included in Katsav's plea bargain. Katsav is being charged with sexual offenses against two former employees.

However, the defense is insisting on receiving all material collected by the police during their investigation against Katsav, including material related to women whose complaints were ultimately not included in the plea bargain.

What the defense wants most is material relating to the women who do appear in the indictment, including these women's testimony about other incidents that were not included in the charge sheet. Katsav's attorneys argue that this material could be important in trying to undermine the complainants' credibility.

The defense is particularly concerned with shaking the credibility of A., who worked under Katsav when he was tourism minister. Last week, A. submitted an affidavit to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, which is slated to hear the case, in which she said that Katsav's harassment had required her to go into therapy, and she remains in therapy to this day. Thus among other things, the defense is seeking any information that the prosecution has about A.'s medical condition.

The material from other complainants, Katsav's attorneys say, could also be useful: For instance, it might support their claim that the various complainants had coordinated their testimony. In particular, they are hoping to find information about conversations between A. and other complainants or their attorneys.

'Buying time'

Sources close to Katsav said that the prosecution has agreed in principle to transfer some of the material it has requested, but the prosecution denied this. Prosecutors charged that Katsav's demands are primarily aimed at buying time, and may even portend a plan to withdraw from the plea bargain.

If the prosecution fails to reach an agreement with Katsav's attorneys, Katsav has the option of seeking a court order to obtain the additional material. If that happens, it could delay the start of the trial for another several weeks, a legal official noted yesterday.

However, the official predicted that prosecutors will try to reach an agreement, since the law largely sides with the defendant on this issue, and refusing to hand over material could thus make the prosecution look bad.