Mazuz Strikes Back After Katsav's Brother's Slurs

There is no basis to claims of extraneous or personal considerations in the decision to indict former president Moshe Katsav for serious sexual offenses, including rape, the Justice Ministry said yesterday.

The ministry said the barbs directed at decision makers in the Katsav case were an attempt to divert attention to immaterial places. The ministry said the decision was not made by Mazuz alone.

Despite the dramatic transformations in the case from its start, the Justice Ministry said yesterday that the prosecution's position had been "consistent," and the prosecution had always said it believed the testimony of complainant A. from the Tourism Ministry regarding the sexual offenses Katsav allegedly committed, including rape.

Mazuz announced his decision Sunday to indict Katsav for serious sexual crimes, including rape.

Lior Katsav, the former president's brother, said yesterday, "My brother is a victim of a terrible blood libel, perhaps the worst since the establishment of Israel. "He is the victim of two women who worked with him and after he fired them and rejected their requests, they looked for the chance to hurt him, to frame him and to take revenge on him."

In an interview with Army Radio's Razi Barkai, Lior Katsav said that a trial will reveal details about "dubious figures" who have made it their business to destroy his brother's career.

"The whole way we saw the politicians stirring the pot, and we saw these dubious people and they all had as their goal to hurt Moshe, to end his public career. It's no secret that all this talk started when they started to talk about what Katsav would do when he ended his term as president and would he run for head of Likud and the premiership?"

Lior Katsav said his brother did not have sexual relations with any of the complainants, either with or without their consent.

Katsav's media advisor, Ronen Tzur, said yesterday that the ex-president would be holding a press conference in the next two days on Mazuz's decision.

The attorney for A. from the Ministry of Tourism, Daniel Sror, said allegations by Katsav's associates would not break her client's spirit.

The main part of the indictment, which is to be filed in the District Court involves A. who worked at the Tourism Ministry from March 1998 to January 1999, when Katsav was minister. Katsav will be charged with two counts of rape of A., in his office in Tel Aviv and once in a hotel in Jerusalem, as well as a forced indecent act. He will also apparently be charged with sexual harassment of two other women, known as H. and L., staffers at the President's Residence.

The state prosecutor's office said it has not decided whether charges will be filed in the District Court in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Proximity to the Justice Ministry could weigh in deciding for Jerusalem, so ministry personnel could be close at hand for advice, and for the symbolic value of trying a case of such weight in the capital.

However, the two attorneys who will sign the indictment, Ronit Amiel and Nisim Miron, are Tel Aviv prosecutors and familiar with the Tel Aviv District Court serious crimes bench. It has still not been decided whether a special panel of judges will be convened, or whether the case will be heard by the regular serious crimes bench.