In perhaps the last opportunity he will have to tell his story in the media before he begins his jail sentence, former President Moshe Katzav said in a lengthy interview on state-run Voice of Israel Radio Thursday that he maintains his innocence, saying that the justice system did not give him the opportunity to adequately defend himself.
Katzav said that he was undergoing a difficult period as a result of the High Court's rejection of the appeal against his conviction last week, but that rumors that he was so depressed he was thinking of taking his own life were false. “A person stands by himself and defends his innocence against a system that has no limits on its power and invasiveness. Who could stand strong in front of such a system that has taken upon it the ruin of one man?” Nevertheless, he said, he would continue to fight to clear his name from the charges that he called “a total lie.”
Katzav said that he was convicted because he was not given the opportunity to present his side of the story fairly. “I cannot go into the motivations of the court that convicted me, but I can say that it made a terrible mistake and sentenced me without letting me defend myself. My lawyers fought for me, but who would dare publicly go against the court and ask that they be removed from the case,” Katzav said, adding that that might have been the only way he could have gotten a fair trial.
In addition, Katzav said that former State Attorney Menachem Mazuz clearly “had it in” for him. “One of my biggest mistakes was to submit all the documents I had to police, who used it to build a phony case. Reports said that police leaked the contents of 1,500 documents, but no one is shocked by this.” Mazuz, he said, was behind those leaks, which were designed to help “convict” him in the media.
Despite all this, Katzav said that he respects the court's decision to sentence him to prison for 7 years, and will abide by it.“I never hurt anyone, male or female,” Katzav said. “I have always observed the law and there has never been any question of my actions in the past.”
Katzav said that his accusers had their reasons for framing him for crimes he did not commit. “Some of them were angry because they were fired from their job, others because they did not get the job they wanted.” At least one of the witnesses who claimed that Katzav had molested her, the former President said, had initially told police that no such incident occurred, but changed her story after a meeting with MK Shelly Yechimovich. The interference of politicians into an ongoing police inquiry completely skewed the case against him, and that was eventually what got him convicted, he added.
As to the substance of the accusations, Katzav said that much of it was due to misunderstandings of his warm personal style, but that the way he conducted himself with female workers or guests had nothing to do with molestation. “Stop asking these stupid questions,” he told the interviewer, Ayala Hasson, who asked him about the accusations. With that, Katzav said that he wanted to apologize to anyone who was hurt by anything he did. “If I hurt anyone, I was not aware of it,” he added.
Despite the accusations and the results of the case, Katzav said that his marriage of 42 years was still strong. Gila, his wife, “knows all the details and she has repeated in interviews that she stands behind me.”
Responding to the accusations by Katzav that she unfairly interfered in the testimony of a witness against him, Yechimovich said that he should feel happy he was sentenced to only 7 years in prison. "He is a sociopath who is incapable of feeling the suffering of his victims," she said. "This is a violent man who has had many victims. I wish him well as he whiles away the years behind bars," she added.