Moshe Katsav, the disgraced former president of Israel who was convicted of rape, could be released from jail by the end of the month. A parole board is due to meet on 27 March to decide whether to reduce Katsav's sentence and allow him to leave prison.
According to Haaretz, Israel's Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told Channel 10 TV that "there's no reason that the parole committee should not release former president Katsav. He meets all the criteria".
However, Israeli parole boards usually require convicts to express remorse for the actions before allowing them to be released on parole. Katsav has never done so, maintaining he is innocent of the charges. Before the trial that would ultimately see him jailed, Katsav rejected a plea deal offered by prosecutors which would have seen him serve a short jail term in exchange for a guilty plea.
Anger at potential pardon
If Katsav's parole bid fails, he may still be released from prison – with his name cleared – as the former head of state applied for a presidential pardon while Shimon Peres was in office. Haaretz reported that sources "from the office of the president" said the decision to pardon Katsav will only be made after the parole board announces its decision.
The possibility of Katsav being pardoned has been met with heavy criticism from Israeli lawmakers.
A statement from the social-democratic party Meretz said: "A professional committee headed by a judge has been given the responsibility in order to prevent politicians from bypassing court decisions. It's unacceptable that politicians from Katsav's side of the political spectrum should make decisions in his case and place themselves above the professionals."
Tzipi Livni – one of the most powerful women in Israeli political landscape – said: "I already withstood the Katsav test when, as justice minister, I refused a request for pardon. I told the president at the time, after receiving the report of the parole board, that I was opposed to giving him a pardon, just as I acted in the cases of other, lesser known, sex offenders.
Merav Michaeli of the Zionist Union party said " Katzav's victims have already reached out to me fearing that a convicted rapist will be set free because he has friends in government. We cannot allow this to happen."
The trial of a president
- President Moshe Katsav informs the Attorney General of Israel Menahem Mazuz that he was being blackmailed by a female employee.
- Katsav's employee accuses him of sexually harassing her and raping her twice, while he was minister of tourism.
- Israeli police collect complaints from eight different women. The accusations include rape, sexual harassment, 'indecent acts', illegal wiretapping and fraud.
- Police drop five of the cases were, due to statute of limitations time limits on them running out .
- Mazuz aims to charge Katsav with crimes including rape, sexual harassment, obstruction of justice, harassment of a witness and fraud. But Israeli law means Katsav cannot be charged with any crime while in office.
- During a speech, Katsav claims he is the victim of a media conspiracy and refuses to resign as president.
- An attempt to impeach Katsav fails.
- Prosecutors cause public outrage by offering Katsav a plea bargain: admit to harassment and 'indecent acts' and pay compensation and receive a suspended sentence.
- Katsav's lawyers accepted the deal to avoid an 'ardous' trial.
- Katsav resigns from the presidency, two weeks before his term ends.
- Prosecutors inform Katsav's defence lawyers about inconsistencies in the evidence from two of Katsav's accusers, and drop some charges.
- Katsav rejects the plea deal, believing the prosecutors' case is weak.
- A three-judge panel in Tel Aviv convicted Katsav of rape, sexual harassment, committing an indecent act while using force, harassing a witness and obstruction of justice.
- According to Al Jazeera News, the panel said that, "Katsav's testimony was riddled with lies."
- Katsav appeals the convictions.
- Israel's Supreme Court rules Katsav's convictions stand.
- Katsav began his seven-year sentence at Maasiyahu prison in December.