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30 Dec 2010
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Israel ex-President Moshe Katsav found guilty of rape
30 December 10 05:36 ET
Israel's former President Moshe Katsav has been convicted of rape by a court in Tel Aviv and could go to jail.
He was found guilty of raping an employee in the 1990s when he was tourism minister and of later sexual offences while he was president.
The judges said they believed the evidence of the woman whose testimony had led to two charges of rape.
Moshe Katsav resigned from the largely ceremonial post of head of state in 2007 and was indicted in March 2009.
While his resignation caused shock across Israel, it had limited political consequences.
Rape commands a jail term in Israel of at least four years, although Katsav is thought to be likely to contest the conviction in Israel's supreme court.
'Riddled with lies'
The former president, in office for seven years from 2000, had denied the charges, the most serious levelled against an Israeli head of state.
He had rejected a plea bargain in 2008 that would have seen him plead guilty to sexual misconduct but avoid more serious charges.
According to the indictment, the rape charges dated back to April 1998 when the former employee described as Woman A alleged he had first raped her at the Tourism Ministry office and later at a hotel in Jerusalem.
The further charges related to claims of sexual harassment of two women in 2003 and 2005 during his presidency.
Reading the verdict, Judge George Karra who presided over a panel with two other judges, said: "We believe the plaintiff [Woman A] because her testimony is supported by elements of evidence, and she told the truth."
Katsav's evidence, the judges decided, was "riddled with lies".
Although members of his family were with him in court, his wife Gila was not. He appeared to be visibly distraught as the verdict was read out and one of his sons was heard saying repeatedly "it's not true".
Sentencing is expected to take place next month and before the former president left court he was told to surrender his passport.
Moshe Katsav was born in Iran and immigrated at the age of six to Israel with his family in 1951. He joined the right-wing Likud party and held a number of ministerial posts before becoming president.
The allegations against him first surfaced in 2006 and led to him stepping down the following year, to be replaced by current President Shimon Peres.
After his indictment, he gave a televised news conference claiming he was the "victim of a lynching" organised by then-Attorney General Menahem Mazuz.
President Peres was quoted by Israeli media shortly after the verdict as saying: "There are not two types of citizen in Israel. There is only one type of citizen, equal before the law."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a "sad day for the State of Israel and its citizens" but added that the trial was a sign of strength of the country's judicial system.
Women's groups in Israel have welcomed the verdict, arguing that allegations of sexual harassment are too often ignored.
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