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Former Israel president Moshe Katsav begins jail term for rape

Posted on: December 7, 2011


Former Israel president Moshe Katsav speaks to journalists as he leaves his house in Kiryat Malachi. He accused Israel of "executing" an innocent man. Photograph: AP

The former Israeli president Moshe Katsav has entered a minimum security prison to begin a seven-year sentence for rape.

Katsav, 66, was convicted last December of assaulting a female former employee when he was a cabinet minister and sexually harassing two other women while president, from 2000 to 2007.

The Iranian-born politician, who has repeatedly declared his innocence, remained free while he appealed against his case, but the supreme court upheld the conviction last month and sent him to prison.

TV footage showed him entering the Maasiyahu jail in central Israel, where he became the highest-ranking Israeli official to be imprisoned.

Katsav looked agitated and overwhelmed as he addressed journalists before beginning his sentence. He accused authorities of ignoring evidence that could clear him and claimed “the truth will come to light”.

“The state of Israel is executing a man today on the basis of impressions, without real time testimony, without evidence,” Katsav said. “One day, consciences will prick and you will see that you buried a man alive.”

In the absence of forensic evidence, prosecutors built their case almost entirely on witness testimony. Legal experts said the similarities in the accounts of victims, who did not know one another, prompted the conviction.

Prison officials say Katsav has been placed in a section of the jail reserved for observant Jews and will share a cell with Shlomo Benizri, a former cabinet minister convicted of accepting bribes.

Security around the former president will be heightened – as part of a suicide watch placed on new prisoners and to prevent inmates from harming him. Katsav’s lawyers have expressed concern that the politician might try to injure himself.

The claims against Katsav came to light in 2006 after he told police one of his accusers was trying to extort money from him.

The twists and turns of the case have riveted and appalled the country. Shortly after the accusations came to light, Katsav held a news conference to accuse prosecutors and the media of plotting his demise because he did not belong to the country’s European-descended elite.

Katsav resigned from office two weeks before his term was due to expire under a plea bargain that would have allowed him to escape jail. Instead he rejected the plea bargain and vowed to prove his innocence in court.

He later said he did not regret that decision because it would have meant he confessed to a crime he did not commit.

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