Israel's Justice Minister Shouldn't Intervene in Rapist Ex-president's Case

It is unseemly for Shaked to try and lobby Rivlin to discuss the pardon of Katsav, who was convicted of such serious crimes as rape, indecent assault, sexual harassment and obstruction of justice.

Olivier Fitoussi

A parole board is scheduled to convene on March 27 to decide whether former President Moshe Katsav should be freed after serving two-thirds of his seven-year prison term for rape and other offenses. Katsav entered prison in December 2011. He was convicted by two courts, never expressed regret for his actions and continues to maintain his innocence.

At this point, it isn’t known what the state prosecution will tell the parole board. But the assessment is that it will have a hard time supporting Katsav’s early release, since he has not expressed remorse. One of the conditions for commuting a sentence is for the prisoner to agree to a rehabilitation process, for which remorse is a prerequisite – particularly for sex offenders. Nevertheless, the parole board is free to decide whether or not to release Katsav using its own judgment and the professional criteria at its disposal.

The apparent attempt by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to intervene in the process raises concerns of an effort to exert political influence on a legal procedure. Shaked has said privately on several occasions that she believes the parole board should free Katsav because, in her opinion, he meets the criteria for clemency.

Similarly, Haaretz also learned (and reported Monday) that Shaked met with President Reuven Rivlin at a judicial appointment ceremony a few weeks ago, where she raised the possibility of pardoning Katsav in the event that the parole board doesn’t release him. As far as is known, Rivlin refused to address the issue, telling Shaked that discussing a pardon for Katsav was not relevant at this time.

Regarding the parole board, it is unreasonable for the justice minister to express an opinion over her preferences for a process that has yet to be completed. Moreover, it is unseemly for Shaked to try and lobby the president to discuss the pardon of a former president who was convicted of such serious crimes as rape, indecent assault, sexual harassment and obstruction of justice.

If the parole board decides not to commute Katsav’s sentence, he can appeal that decision at the district court. And if that denies his appeal, he can ask the Supreme Court for permission to appeal. If he is pardoned after going through all these procedures – through which the legal system has made its stance completely clear – it will convey a very harmful message to all victims of sexual assault, the legal system and society as a whole.