Protect the Victims

The question of whether Katzav was involved in the private investigation of his alleged victims is critical for him, but even if it turns out that only his agents were involved in accosting witnesses, law enforcement agencies must deal severely with this issue.

Moshe Katsav's sex crimes case wended its way through four stations on the law enforcement highway: the police, the prosecution, the attorney general and the courts. It began with the then-president complaining of an attempt to extort him, continued with a police investigation that turned the complainant into a suspect and recommended indicting him, then moved on to the prosecution's deliberations over the strength of the evidence.

Next, then-Attorney General Menachem Mazuz agreed to a very generous plea bargain under which Katsav would confess to relatively minor offenses and be spared any jail time. From there, the case went to the Supreme Court, which examined the plea bargain and in the process offered a glimpse into the details of the case as a whole.

But Katsav backed out of the plea bargain, forcing the prosecution to submit an amended and far more serious indictment. His trial ended in conviction and a seven-year prison sentence. But his request to defer his sentence until after the Supreme Court had finished hearing his appeal was accepted by Justice Yoram Danziger, whose reasoning indicated that he saw a real chance of the Supreme Court overturning the district court's verdict, acquitting Katsav and sparing him the threat of jail.

In an effort to make this happen, the Katsav family hired private investigators who, using various cover stories, tried to pump key figures in the case, including witnesses and complainants. Whether the goal was legal, whether the means employed were criminal, and whether responsibility rests with those who commissioned the private investigation or those who carried it out are all questions now being investigated by the police. The findings will be passed on to the prosecution and may result in additional indictments.

For Katsav personally, the question of whether he was involved in the private investigation is critical. But even if it turns out that only his agents, and not the former president himself, were involved in accosting the witnesses, the law enforcement agencies must deal severely with this plague, which surfaced in previous cases involving public figures accused of sex crimes.

It is difficult, if not sometimes impossible, to persuade a woman who was sexually assaulted to file a complaint against a high-ranking official. This is not just a case of "his word versus hers"; the defense will try to smear both her testimony and her personally. Thus both to deter criminals and to encourage victims, it is necessary to severely punish those who harass witnesses and obstruct justice.