Former president of Israel Moshe Katsav
Former president of Israel Moshe Katsav. (photo credit:REUTERS)


The Israel Prison Service Parole Board was slated on Wednesday to decide whether to grant former president Moshe Katsav’s request for early release from prison now that he has served approximately two-thirds of a seven-year sentence for rape.

On Sunday, the board had been expected to issue its ruling, but a dispute between the parties in the case led to an unexpected change and postponement of the decision.

Finishing its second hearing within about a week, the board gave Wednesday as a more solid date for a decision. Representatives from the state prosecutor’s office were not expected to participate in Wednesday’s hearing in light of a public sector strike by the Histadrut Labor Federation.

There was some controversy about whether the rehabilitation professionals would switch on Sunday from the first hearing last week in which they opposed Katsav’s early release to being in favor, but ultimately they stuck to their position in opposition.

To the extent there is still a small chance that Wednesday will be another hearing without a decision, that would occur if the parole board presses the rehabilitation professionals to explain their evolving internal deliberations.

In contrast, the prosecution reportedly never wavered, saying as long as Katsav did not express regret and admit his wrongs, he could not be released early from Ma’asiyahu prison in Ramle no matter how good his behavior was.

Little was reported from Sunday’s hearing, but Katsav reportedly burst into tears during last week’s closed-doors hearing.

The key factors generally for parole board’s decisions are: the prisoner’s behavior in jail; absence of danger to commit future offenses; extent of rehabilitation; and the public interest.

Although the 12-hour hearing last week was behind closed doors, the prosecution was expected to have stated that the former head of state’s refusal to take responsibility meant he did not go through the jail’s rehabilitation program for sex offenders.

Furthermore, they had been expected to argue that an early release would add harm to his victims and send the wrong message to the public about the severity of sexual offenses.

Presiding over the parole board is retired judge Moshe Mechlis, who is joined by a sociologist and a psychologist.

Katsav’s lawyers had been expected to rest their plea for an early release on his good behavior in prison, his worsening health, age and an argument that he is no danger to society. Along those lines, they were to have argued that even his past offenses were connected to his power as president, an office he will never return to again.

Katsav was convicted of two counts of rape, one count of committing an indecent act using force, one count of committing an indecent act, two counts of sexual harassment, one count of harassing a witness and one count of obstructing justice. He entered Ma’asiyahu in December 2011.

Controversy erupted regarding his plea request in early March with rumors that Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and President Reuven Rivlin were pushing for an early release and implying that the eighth president’s sentence would be commuted if the parole board does not release him.

Following the reports, however, Rivlin’s spokeswoman issued a statement of clarification that he has not supported the idea of giving clemency to Katsav, and will discuss the possibility only if the matter comes up in an appeal directed to his office. Even then, he will not make a decision without consulting with the Justice Ministry and taking into account all the relevant factors, as all his predecessors have done when appeals for clemency or pardons were put to them, she said.

Similarly, Shaked’s spokeswoman has said that, contrary to reports, she has not yet taken a position on the matter. Rather, she views the issue as not having arrived on her desk, and she will not prejudge or try to sway the parole board’s ruling on the matter.

In response to the possibility that Katsav’s sentence might be commuted, MKs Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) and Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) proposed a bill under which a president who wants to pardon a criminal would have to consult with the sentencing court.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post