Prosecution Accuses Katsav of Using 'Fear' Tactics on Victims

Court lifts gag order on text of opening remarks, as trial closed off to public to protect defendants.

The Tel Aviv District Court lifted the gag order Monday on opening remarks made on the first day of Moshe Katsav's trial last Tuesday on charges of rape, indecent assault and sexual harassment committed against three female employees while he was tourism minister and president.

The trial is being held behind closed doors to protect the identities of the complainants.

Prosecutor Ronit Amiel said that Katsav waged an "intimidation and fear campaign" against the women, and against potential witnesses in the trial.

"The prosecution will present evidence to convince the court that the accused took advantage of his high public position and his status as minister and president to assault and sexually harass those under his charge, whom he chose with great care," she said.

"The prosecution will present evidence to the court showing that the defendant displayed a behavior pattern over several years - through temptation and pursuit - and used all of his abilities to bring the employees closer to him, take interest in them, complement them and give each of them the feeling of being 'chosen' by the boss," Amiel said.

"At the same time, in the interest of caution, the defendant used a mechanism of silencing [the employees], and sought to ensure that silence, lest any of them decide that she would indeed speak out," Amiel said. "The goal of the defendant's methodical actions was to obtain the complainants' acquiescence in the acts he was committing on them."

The prosecuting attorney said Katsav's profile is far from that of the horror-film rapist:

"The defendant is not a rapist in a dark alley with a knife. There was usually no need for physical force, his lofty position was enough to allow him to behave this way."

However, she said that when he felt physical force was needed "to achieve that acquiescence and at the same time to maintain silence, he did not hesitate to apply such force as well."

The prosecutor said Katsav's superior position, the intensity with which he acted, and the wide discrepancy in authority between him and his victims led the complainants to "reject the defendant in a polite,considerate way - clearly, but while maintaining consideration for his respect throughout. None of the complainants wanted to sound the alarms, none of them wanted to endanger their jobs or positions. None thought she could refuse his acts and nonetheless remain in her place of work."

Amiel told Judges George Karra, Miriam Sokolov and Judith Shevach that State Prosecutor Moshe Lador is "an integral part of the prosecution in this case. He personally accompanied the process of examining thematerial and forming conclusions on the case." Amiel also said it is possible that Lador would ask to participate in some of the legal proceedings.

Following the prosecuting attorney's remarks, Katsav's attorney Avigdor Feldman told the court, "There is an attempt on the part of the prosecution - which I have already told them we will firmly oppose - to demonize the defendant."

"This demonization is expressed in [the defendant's] supposedly systematic behavior, and in remarks about 'mechanisms,' 'force,' and statements about the complainants being submissive and yielding."

Feldman said the prosecution "needs to provide witnesses with crutches, such as bringing in a psychiatrist ... to explain why the complainants are so 'pathetic' ... and why complainants in sexual offense cases seek to be close to a 'rapist' and write him letters."