Female politicians and women’s rights groups praised a decision to deny former president Moshe Katsav parole Wednesday, saying the move to keep the convicted rapist behind bars would help build public trust.
The parole board made a unanimous decision to deny Katsav early release, saying he had not admitted any guilt or shown any remorse and continued to care only about his own suffering and not that of his victims.
Katsav, 70, was convicted on December 30, 2010, on two counts of rape, among other charges. He began serving his sentence in December 2011, and is slated for release in December 2018.
“This is a clear message to society that the justice system will not tolerate at any level any disregard for crimes against women, especially if the culprit is a senior public figure,” said Joint (Arab) List MK Aida Touma Sliman, head of the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality in the Knesset.
“There is no parole board that can deduct one-third of the pain from the women that Katsav hurt,” she added.
Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich, who was a witness for the prosecution during the trial, said the denial of parole would help encourage other victims of sexual assault to come forward.
“This decision sends an important message to the victims of Katsav and to the victims of sexual assault in general,” she said.
Jewish Home MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli also agreed with the reasoning of the parole board.
“Someone who has never expressed remorse for his grave actions…does not deserve a lighter sentence,” she said. “Moshe Katsav entered jail as a public figure and this decision has a clear message for the public — public officials are not above the law.”
Zionist Union MK Merav Michaeli said of the decision that “any other… would have been a betrayal of public trust and an abandonment of the victims of the former president.”
Meretz leader Zehava Galon hailed the “excellent news.”
“The decision today is a big victory in our struggle, another step in the revolution unfolding before our eyes, heralding the end of an era in which women’s bodies, souls and futures are exploited,” she said.
Zionist Union Chairman Isaac Herzog, one of the few male politicians to make a statement about the decision, said in a Facebook post that Katsav had permanently disgraced his former office.
“The Katsav affair has left and will forever remain a stain on the office of the president, the same institution in which my father, Chaim Herzog, worked vigorously on behalf of Israel,” he said. “It is an embarrassing episode in which a sitting president used his power to force himself on women… Moshe Katsav will have to live with the shame and disgrace he has brought upon himself.”
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, while he said he respects the decision, indicated that he disagreed with it.
“As a public servant, I respect the decision, but I would examine something there,” he said, according to the Walla news website. “There are parameters, and if a man meets the criteria, he must be freed, but I respect the decision.”
Orit Soliciano, the director-general of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, said she thought Katsav still posed a danger to women.
“Katsav continues to be dangerous. His denial of the damage he caused conveys a terrifying message to the victims, and shows that he still has the ability to hurt people in the future,” she said.
She continued: “The fact that he continues to see himself as a victim is absurd and testifies to the insensitivity of his heart. So may he continue to sit in jail and account for the seriousness of his actions.”
The parole board spent 11 hours last week reviewing Katsav’s case at a hearing during which the ex-president, at times in tears, made an effort to persuade its members to shave off one-third of his seven-year sentence while continuing to maintain his innocence.
In citing the reasons for its decision, the board noted that Katsav continues to deny that he is guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted and to only care about his own condition and not that of his victims.
“In front of us is a prisoner who denies the crimes that he committed, who continues to claim his innocence, despite the court ruling in his matter, and continues to spend time trying to prove his innocence, as though there had been no legal process,” the decision read.
“The board took note that the prisoner sees himself as a victim… and is busy solely with himself, his needs, his loss, and the price that he and his family have paid. Even in light of questions from the board, the prisoner didn’t show regret and/or empathy for the victims of the crime, but once again noted the heavy price he has paid and is paying,” it continued.
The board also noted it took into consideration opposition from Katsav’s victims to the release, as well as various opinions from rehabilitation treatment experts.
His attorney Zion Amir said after the announcement that the former president would appeal the decision and continue to fight to clear his name, suggesting the board had been swayed by public sentiment against Katsav.
“I very much regret that in our society decision makers are enslaved to outside moods that bring out decisions like this,” Amir said.
Katsav can make another plea for parole in six months’ time.