Female lawmakers on Sunday decried as “cowardly and toxic” the decision to grant former president and convicted rapist Moshe Katsav early release from prison after serving five years of a seven-year jail sentence.
The Israel Prisons Service Parole Board’s ruling came after Katsav’s two previous requests for early release were rejected over his failure to acknowledge his actions or express any regret. In its Sunday decision, the IPS said it had granted Katsav’s request for parole as he has since expressed remorse for his actions.
“Today a cowardly and toxic decision was made after the parole board succumbed to manipulation and decided to reduce his sentence, granting him a fictional rehabilitation program as a free man,” Meretz MKs Zehava Galon, Michal Rozin and Tamar Zandberg said in a joint statement, , claiming the decision was heavily influenced by political pressure.
“Katsav used his political power to rape, and now he has again exploited that same power to get out early,” the statement said.
“The parole board has ignored public interest and the terrible message they send to his victims and all other victims of sexual violence — that you can rape women and easily get away with it, especially if you are well-connected.”
Yesh Atid MK Yael German also expressed dismay over Katsav’s parole.
“It’s inconceivable that a man who held the most lofty position in Israel and was supposed to serve as an example to citizens won’t serve out his sentence for such severe offenses,” German said in a statement.
Zionist Union MK Merav Michaeli called on Katsav to express remorse publicly to his victims.
The former president, 71, was convicted in 2010 of two counts of rape, among other related charges. He began serving his sentence in Ma’asiyahu Prison in December 2011 and was slated for release in December 2018.
Katsav had consistently denied committing any offenses and portrayed himself as a victim.
But during a parole hearing last week, Katsav admitted that he had acted “inappropriately” toward the women who made claims against him, according to Israel Radio, and reportedly broke down in tears, admitting that he needed to change his behavior.
In a letter written by Katsav that was obtained by Channel 2 last week, the former president acknowledged the pain he caused his victims.
“I’m sure the women who filed complaints against me were hurt, and did go through what they said they went through,” Katsav reportedly wrote to close friends. “I have made mistakes and I must learn the lessons. I now recognize that I hurt them, and that I did not see the signs that they were hurt. I erred.”
Having served more than two-thirds of his prison term at Ma’asiyahu, Katsav was eligible for immediate parole, but a statement from the courts said his release would be delayed for seven days in order for the state to “consider the position.”
The delayed release, a spokesperson told The Times of Israel, could suggest the state is looking into ways to overturn the ruling.
Upon his release, Katsav will be subject to some restrictions, such as checking in with a parole officer, continuing to attend a rehabilitation program and therapy session, and a ban on speaking to the media.