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Ex-Israel president convicted

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Ex-Israel president convicted

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JERUSALEM – Former President Moshe Katsav was convicted yesterday of raping an employee when he was a Cabinet minister, the most serious criminal charges ever brought against a high-ranking official in Israel and a case that shocked the nation.
Katsav, 65, likely faces from four to 16 years in prison for the crimes, which included two counts of raping an employee in 1998 when he was tourism minister and lesser counts of indecent acts and sexual harassment involving two other women who worked for him when he was president.
Katsav served as a minister in several right-wing Likud governments before he was elected president, a largely ceremonial post, in 2000.
He has denied the rape charges, claiming he was a victim of a political witch hunt and suggested he was targeted because he comes from Israel’s Sephardic community.
Sephardic Jews, of Middle Eastern origin, were for decades an underclass. Katsav was born in Iran and immigrated to Israel as a child.
A sombre Katsav left the courtroom without commenting, surrounded by his legal team. He was ordered to surrender his passport while awaiting sentencing at a date that has not yet been set.
Katsav can appeal the verdict, but legal experts said Israel’s Supreme Court was unlikely to overturn such a sweeping conviction. A presidential pardon was also highly unlikely because of the severity of the offenses. In his ruling, the judge said Katsav’s defence was full of lies.
Katsav’s son Boaz vowed his father would clear his name.
“We will continue to walk with our heads high and all the nation . . . with God’s help, will know that Father, the eighth president of the state of Israel, is innocent,” he said.
Katsav’s case initially broke in 2006, when the then-president complained that a female employee was extorting him. The woman then went to police with her side of the story, detailing a series of sexual assaults and prompting other women to come forward with similar complaints.
According to the indictment, Katsav forced one woman to the floor of his office at the tourism m­inistry in 1998 and raped her. A second time that year, he summoned her to a Jerusalem hotel to go over paperwork and raped her on the bed in his room.
The indictment alleged that Katsav tried to calm his victim by saying: “Relax, you’ll enjoy it.”
The indictment also alleged that he harassed two women during his term as president, embracing them against their will and making unwanted sexual comments. (AP)

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