Former president and convicted rapist Moshe Katsav was released from Ma’asiyahu Prison on Wednesday after the State Prosecution said it would not appeal Sunday’s parole board decision to free him. He had served five years of a seven-year jail sentence.
A smiling Katsav, flanked by his wife Gila and other supporters, appeared at the gate of the central Israel prison at around 4 p.m. Jostled by the crowd of waiting reporters, the disgraced Likud politician got into a car and drove away without speaking.
He later received a hero’s welcome in his home town of Kiryat Malachi, where cheering crowds rushed to embrace him — even knocking the blue and white large knitted kippa off his head in the excitement.
Under the terms of his parole, Katsav is not allowed to make any statements to the media until December 2018, when his full seven-year sentence would have ended. The former president is also banned from leaving the country or leaving his home in Kiryat Malachi between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Furthermore, Katsav has to attend rehab and visit a psychologist once a week, and attend daily Torah study sessions.
Katsav’s lawyer Zion Amir expressed his delight at his client’s release Thursday and slammed critics of the decision, Army Radio reported.
“For the first time in 10 years the prosecution has refrained from appealing [a parole decision and] the same people who praise the rule of law now revile it,” Amir said. “This is a great day for him and I am pleased that his continuous suffering is over.”
He added: “It will be difficult to get used to [not hearing] the sound of doors clanging shut behind him.”
The critics included Meretz leader MK Zehava Galon, who criticized the decision not to fight the parole.
“The prosecution failed in its obligation and did not appeal. Those who continue to pay the price are the women he harmed,” she said.
Sunday’s ruling came after Katsav, convicted of rape and other sexual offenses in 2010, was rejected twice for early release — for failing to acknowledge his acts or express any regret. The parole board said he has now taken several steps that indicate remorse for his actions.
Appearing before the parole board last week, Katsav admitted that he acted “inappropriately” toward the women who made claims against him, according Israel Radio. He reportedly broke down in tears, saying that he needed to change his behavior.
The prosecution opposed early release at each of three hearings held to discuss Katsav’s requests for early release.
Its position was accepted at the first two hearings, but rejected on Sunday.
“Petitions against decisions of the Parole Board are submitted only where the prosecution believes that the decision was unreasonable in the extreme or illegal,” the prosecution said in a statement.
As the Parole Board’s decision was not unreasonable in the extreme, an appeal to the Supreme Court would have little chance of success, it said.
Furthermore, Katsav had behaved “impeccably” in prison, had already served part of the last third of his sentence, and had undergone treatment over recent months while in prison.
The treatment authorities at the Prisons Service backed his release and Katsav will be subject to some restrictions when he leaves Ma’asiyahu Prison.
These will include checking in with a parole officer, continuing to attend a rehabilitation program and therapy, and not speaking to the media.
In its statement Sunday, the prosecution reiterated its view that Katsav’s expressions of remorse were not sufficient. In the past, it has said the former president’s statements do not amount to an admission of guilt for the two counts of rape for which he was convicted.
“The prosecution and legal system’s treatment of the former president Katsav proved that in the State of Israel, the principle of equality of all before the law is followed with full force,” the prosecution’s statement concluded. There was “the same law for the simplest person and the president of the state.”