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Israeli ex-President Katsav guilty of rape

Photo: AP

Moshe Katsav.

TEL AVIV: The former Israeli President, Moshe Katsav, was convicted of two counts of rape on Thursday, capping a four-year scandal that shocked the Jewish state and leaves him facing at least eight years in prison.

As a Tel Aviv court handed down the verdict, which also convicted Mr. Katsav on charges of sexual harassment, indecent acts and obstruction of justice, the visibly distraught 65-year-old muttered “No, no”.

The ruling comes after a trial that lasted a year and a half and included harrowing accusations, with depictions of Mr. Katsav as a sexual predator who routinely harassed his female staff.

The former Head of State was accused of twice raping a victim identified as “Aleph” during his term as Tourism Minister, and sexually assaulting and harassing two other women while he was President.

Mr. Katsav proclaimed his innocence throughout the investigation into the rape and harassment charges.

He initially accepted a plea agreement that would have seen him admit the lesser accusations and pay a fine in exchange for prosecutors dropping the rape charges, but later changed his mind, voiding the deal and saying he wanted to clear his name in court.

He was forced to resign as President, handing the office to former rival Shimon Peres. Mr. Katsav accused his victims of attempting to blackmail him and charged that he was the victim of “a lynching” by prosecutors and the media.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was “a sad day for the state of Israel and its citizens”, but he lauded the trial as a sign of the strength of the country's legal system.

Sentencing is scheduled for January. — AFP

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