View Full Version : Outrage As Katsav Escapes Prison Over Rape Charges

06-30-2007, 08:05 PM
Outrage as Katsav escapes prison over rape charges


By Jane Hutcheon
Posted Fri Jun 29, 2007 4:00pm AEST

Five months ago Israeli President Moshe Katsav was facing charges of rape and abuse of power involving 12 women over more than a decade.

Then last night, almost a year after the allegations surfaced, Israel's Attorney-General agreed to drop the rape charges in exchange for a plea bargain.

But in a dramatic twist, the key plaintiff went live on television to detail months of harassment and sexual abuse in the country's highest office.

President Katsav has since resigned, with former prime minister Shimon Peres taking office on July 15.

Mr Katsav is the first Israeli president to come from a Muslim country. He was born in Iran and emigrated to the new Jewish state as a child. But his is a rags to riches story with a shameful conclusion.

He angrily lambasted the media earlier this year for putting him on trial before all the evidence had been presented. But last night, Israel's Attorney-General had a change of heart.

Mr Katsav, who might have been jailed if convicted of rape, would escape with a suspended sentence and a hefty fine.

His lawyer, Zion Amir, was satisfied and declared the matter closed.

"The great majority of the accusations are not existing any more," he said.

"What remains are very minor and little deeds that the President took responsibility on - it's nothing like what we heard during the last year in the media."

Rights groups were outraged. Then one of the key plaintiffs, a young woman know as "Miss A", decided that if a court would not hear her allegations, she would air them on television.

For reasons of privacy, her face was obscured, but her recollections were extremely explicit.

She said Mr Katsav was immediately attracted to her. It began with compliments; once he asked her to wear a skirt and no underwear to work.

After months of harassment, she tried to resign, but the President would not accept it and eventually forced her to have sex with him in his office.

She says he inflicted "physical terror" on her.

Despite Miss A's public testimony, Yael Milgalter of the Association of Rape Crisis Centres in Israel, says the President was let-off the hook.

"Even if you press charges against your president, justice won't be done, and it's sending out a message to victims not to press charges because they will be silenced, and we feel it's very problematic," she said.

Mr Katsav has agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges of indecent assault and harassment.

The Attorney-General said it was important to spare Israel from seeing a president on trial.