The Raging Battle of the Versions Starts Up Again in the Katsav Affair

Former president Moshe Katsav's cancellation of his plea bargain can also be seen as a declaration of war. And the start of hostilities between the dueling versions came immediately after his dramatic turnaround.

The State Prosecutor's Office promptly announced: We are back to Square 1 and all bets are off. Katsav's associates told anyone who would listen that they are in possession of new evidence.

"We will refute the testimony of A. from the Tourism Ministry as we refuted the testimony of A. from the President's Residence," they claimed. The reference to the Tourism Ministry complainant was not random. They knew she would be central to any new indictment.

A. was in charge of Katsav's office when he was tourism minister in the late 1990s. Based on her testimony, the prosecution included two rape charges in the draft indictment.

During Katsav's hearing before Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, his lawyers highlighted problems with her evidence, and the plea bargain downgraded the charges to an indecent act under duress, and sexual harassment. Now, Mazuz has made clear, a rape charge is being reconsidered.

A taste of things to come was available at the hearing on the case material at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court three days ago. The state's representative, Irit Baumhorn, declared to the court (and the media) that among the material that was not given to the defense is information concerning an attempt by Katsav's associates to suborn a witness.

Katsav's lawyer, Zion Amir, retorted that Baumhorn's statement was designed purely to defame, and proceeded to raise two questions that we will surely be hearing again in the near future: "Was the possibility examined that A. previously made a false complaint of sexual harassment, and what happened to it?" and "Was there an inquiry into the arson involving her house?"

When Katsav's lawyer Avraham Lavi was asked to reveal the materials in their possession, he replied: "There is a time for everything, and this is not the place to unveil all of the evidence we have gathered."

A. vehemently denied the insinuations yesterday. But she is no longer surprised. She constantly hears of "evidence that will shock the prosecution and A." "It looks like transparent terrorizing. It's a bit mafioso-style," her friend, Dror Nisan, said yesterday. "