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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Who is Moshe Katsav?


 Who is Moshe Katsav? The Israeli Political World know Katsav as a former Israeli politician.[2] He served as the eighth President of Israel, a leading Likudmember of the Israeli Knesset, and a Cabinet Minister in its government.

The end of his presidency was marked by controversy, stemming from allegations of rape of one female subordinate and sexual harassment of others. Katsav resigned the presidency on 1 July 2007.[3][4] In a landmark and unprecedented case,[5][6] on 30 December 2010, Katsav was convicted of two counts of rape,[7] obstruction of justice and other charges.[5][6] On 22 March 2011, Katsav was handed a seven-year sentence by an Israeli court for rape and other sexual offences, in what became a landmark ruling.

 Early life

Katsav was December 5, 1945 in Yazd, Iran. His family brought him to Tehran when he was an infant; in June 1951, when he was five, they emigrated to Israel. He remains fluent in Persian. Upon arriving in Israel, the Katsav family was ultimately dispatched to an immigrant tent-camp in Israel's south, inland from the port city of Ashdod. In the winter of 1951, severe flooding inundated the camp, and Katsav's two-month-old brother, Zion died[8]. Young Katsav and his family lived in a tent in the transit camp for two years. They then spent an additional four years in a temporary hut. By then, the transit camp in which the Katsavs had been living had been transformed into the "development town" of Kiryat Mal'akhi.

Education, family

Katsav attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem beginning in 1968, and while studying he taught history and mathematics in a high school. He graduated in 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and history.

He has been married to Gila, since 1969. The couple has five children and two grandchildren. After a 30-year career in banking, Katsav's wife has devoted herself to charity and volunteer work, especially in groups fighting domestic violence and promoting women's rights, and providing aid and services to disabled children and children from disadvantaged homes.

Early political career

Katsav joined the Likud Party, and at the age of 24 was elected the mayor of Kiryat Mal'akhi, the small town in which he was raised. He was subsequently elected as a Member of the Knesset in 1977.

Cabinet minister

In the governments of Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, Katsav served as the deputy Minister of Construction and Housing (1981–83). He then served as the Minister of Labor and Welfare in the national unity government which served from 1984-88. During 1988-92 he served as the Transportation Minister under Yitzhak Shamir, and under Benjamin Netanyahu's first government (1996–1999), he served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism.[9]

The public positions filled by Katsav include the following: Chairman of the Iranian Immigrants Organization; Chairman of the commission to determine higher education tuition; and Member of Ben-Gurion University Board of Trustees.

Presidency

  

    After serving as Deputy Prime Minister in Netanyahu's government, Katsav vied for the position of President, running as the opposition candidate against Shimon Peres. In a surprising upset, he defeated Peres to become the president of Israel, being elected by the Knesset on 31 July 2000. He took 63 votes (over 57 for Peres), two more than the required majority of 61, and was sworn in on 1 August. He was the first President of Israel to have been sworn in for a seven-year term, as well as the first candidate from the right wing Likud party to be elected to the office.

The office of the Israeli President is largely ceremonial, with no executive powers save pardoningprisoners and commuting sentences. Nevertheless, each president emphasizes different aspects of the role during his tenure. In 2003, on a visit to Italy, he demanded that the Vatican restore treasures allegedly brought to Rome after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.[10]

On 8 April 2005, the alphabetic ordering of leaders during the funeral of Pope John Paul IIresulted in Katsav sitting near Iranian President Mohammad Khatami who, like Katsav, was born in the Iranian city of Yazd. Katsav told the press that he shook Khatami's hand and spoke to him in Persian. Khatami later denied this.[11]

Rape and sexual harassment case

Initial allegations

In July 2006, Katsav complained to the Attorney General of Israel, Menahem Mazuz, that he was being blackmailed by one of his female employees.[12] The investigation quickly turned against Katsav as the employee, referred to as A., alleged sexual offences.[13] The eventual allegations asserted that Katsav had sexually harassed up to ten women, including the first woman's charge of rape. His house was raided by police on 22 August, where they seized computers and documents. There were calls for him to resign or suspend himself from the presidency. This came only days after Justice Minister Haim Ramon's resignation after a police investigation, also over alleged sexual harassment, had led to Ramon's indictment.[14] Katsav was questioned on 23 August ("under warning") by police in connection with the accusations of sexual harassment and corruption, including A.'s rape charge.[15]

On 7 September, after concluding the fourth investigation into the matter, and having received complaints from at least four different women (according to IBA's correspondent for police affairs), the Israel Police determined that they had enough evidence for an indictment. On that day, the Judges' Election Committee unanimously approved the appointment of Dorit Beinisch as president of the Supreme Court of Israel. Katsav refrained from attending, "to prevent dispute".[16]

Avoids ceremony

On 13 September, the Knesset's House Committee approved Katsav's request for a day's leave of absence so that he could refrain from attending and presiding over Beinisch's formal swearing-in ceremony, normally held in the presidential compound, now to be held in the Knesset.[17] The Committee's chairwoman, Ruhama Avraham, did, however, advise Katsav to opt for a more lengthy leave.[18]

Katsav was interviewed by police for the fifth time, from 10:00 a.m. till at least 7:00 p.m. Police confirmed that seven women had by then testified against Katsav, and that the allegations now also included "breach of trust, fraud, and involvement in illegal wiretapping".[19]Speaking on the case for the first time, on 18 September, Israel's Attorney General, Menachem Mazuz, stated in an interview that the likelihood of Katsav's claim that he had been made the victim of a plot was "fairly slim," given the "long line of women who complained against him." [20][21] By 21 September, the number of women accusing Katsav of sexual assault had risen to eight.[22]

On 15 October 2006, police recommended pursuing rape and sexual harassment charges against Katsav. Complaints by five of the women would not be pursued because the statute of limitations had run out.[23] Katsav was advised on 29 October by Israel's attorney general, Menachem Mazuz, to step down from his presidential duties and suspend himself as long as the possibility of his indictment remained under consideration. Katsav, who continued to deny the allegations, had announced, via his lawyers, that if indicted he would resign.[24][25]

Suspension and resignation

On 23 January 2007 Attorney-General Mazuz announced that he would consider charging Katsav with rape, sexual harassment, breach of trust, obstruction of justice, harassment of a witness and fraud. The president is immune from prosecution while in office, and could only be tried after the end of his term in August 2007 or after his resignation. The final decision on indictment would be made after a hearing where Katsav could present his case. Katsav had declined to resign as president[26], but had a three-month leave of absence approved by theKnesset on 25 January. Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik had assumed the office of president in the interim in a "caretaker" capacity.[4]

On 7 March 2007, Katsav survived an attempt to impeach him[27] by the Knesset House Committee. His seven-year term was scheduled to run out constitutionally on 15 July 2007. However, in accordance with a plea agreement, he resigned effective 1 July 2007. Katsav thus became the second President in a row to resign due to legal problems, after Ezer Weizman in 2000. Shimon Peres was elected to succeed Katsav on 13 June 2007.

Claims of witch-hunt and conviction by media

On 24 January 2007, Katsav held a press conference wherein he accused journalists of persecuting him and judging him before all the evidence has been presented. He also claimed that the media has been hostile to his presidency ever since he defeated Shimon Peres, quoting an op-ed piece in The Jerusalem Post by Amotz Asa-El which claimed that Katsav's election was "the end of Zionism" and others that compared his election to the Rabin assassination.[28]

At one point, Katsav got into a heated argument with Channel 2 reporter and news anchor Gadi Sukenik, accusing him and his channel of conducting a witch-hunt. Katsav declared his intention to suspend himself temporarily in light of the charges of rape and sexual harassment, though he had refused to step down unless he is indicted.

The speech drew shock and condemnation, as well as amazement, from journalists, politicians, and legal figures.[29] In a talk scheduled minutes after Katsav's speech ended, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated that he should resign from the presidency.

  Katsav yesterday delivered the speech of his life. To his great regret, under tragic circumstances. But it was a Shakespearean speech. It is a Shakespearean drama which unveils before your eyes. You occasionally rub your eyes and say: 'Wait, am I in a theater or am I sitting on an arm chair at home watching my president, live?' [30] — Yisrael Segel, Israeli author and journalist

Katsav's brother Lior claimed in March 2009 that the eventual decision to indict Katsav amounted to "blood libel".[31]

Plea bargaining and indictment

On 28 June 2007, Katsav's lawyers reached a plea bargain with Israel’s attorney general, Menachem Mazuz. According to the deal, Katsav would plead guilty to several counts of sexual harassment and indecent acts and receive a suspended jail sentence, and pay compensation to two of his victims. The more serious rape charges brought by the initial employee, A., had been dropped, as well as Katsav's original charges of her blackmailing him. This led to widespread condemnation of this deal among the general public and in particular from organizations devoted to women's rights: opinion polls showed that 70 percent of the public were dissatisfied with the deal[32][33], and over 20,000 protesters attended a rally against it at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.[32] Despite the protests, the attorney general said the agreement would still shame Katsav while sparing humiliation of the office, and that there were in any event problems with the evidence owing to the lengthy timeline; Katsav's attorneys said they accepted the deal to avoid an arduous trial.[13]

On 30 October 2007, the state prosecution told the High Court of Justice that it had changed its mind about the indictment on the basis of the evidence from the two key complainants, citing a meeting with Katsav's attorneys that highlighted contradictions within their testimony, including an affectionate letter from one of the complainants after the two rapes allegedly occurred. The court would rule on a later date on whether Menahem Mazuz's changed position was warranted. The move garnered harsh criticism from the complainants' attorneys.[34] Katsav called off the plea bargain by April 2008, convinced, according to one of his lawyers, Avigdor Feldman, that the prosecution did not have enough evidence to convict him,[35] leaving the prosecutors to decide whether or not to prepare a new indictment.[35]

Trial and conviction

In March 2009, Katsav was formally indicted for rape and other sexual offences in Tel Aviv district court.[36] His trial on two counts of rape and other sexual offences took place between August 2009 and June 2010.[37] Katsav's testimony began in January 2010.[38] The trial was held behind closed doors (as is customary in trials of sexual offences) and a media ban was imposed on the details of the trial, witnesses and testimony. The ban was lifted in August 2010, when protocols of the trial were released.[39]

On 30 December 2010, Katsav was unanimously found guilty of "rape, sexual harassment, committing an indecent act while using force, harassing a witness and obstruction of justice" by a three-judge panel.[5] Presiding Judge George Kara read the verdict which stated that Katsav "engaged in a campaign of vilification against the plaintiffs".[40] The former president could face a maximum sentence of 49 years, but this will be decided in a few months.[5][41] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that it was "a sad day for Israel", but that the verdict shows that in Israel "all are equal before the law, and that every woman has exclusive rights to her body."[42] The conviction was described as "landmark"[5] and "unprecedented"[6], and the story featured prominently in the international media.[43]

Sentence

On 22 March 2011, Moshe Katsav was sentenced to seven years in prison and two years' probation for rape, indecent acts, sexual harassment and obstruction of justice, becoming the first former Israeli head of state to be sentenced to prison. In addition, he was ordered to pay one of the women he raped a sum of 100,000 NIS and another a sum of 25,000 NIS.[44] Katsav's lawyer Tzion Amir told reporters later the same day that the sentence will be appealed to the Supreme Court.[45]

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