Tel Aviv: Former
Israeli president Moshe Katsav was found guilty of rape by a court
in Tel Aviv Thursday in a ruling more than four years after
several women - former employees of Katsav - first made the
allegations against him.
Tel Aviv District Court Judge George Kara, who headed a panel of
three judges, took more than an hour to read out the verdict.
Katsav, 65, was convicted of all the sexual charges made against
him, including two counts of rape and one count of a forced
The judges ruled that his version of events was dishonest and
called the testimony of one of the women who had complained,
identified only as A., "believable".
A. had said that Katsav raped her twice in 1998 when he was
tourism minister and she his subordinate. She testified he forced
her to have sex with him once in his Tel Aviv office and shortly
afterwards in a Jerusalem hotel.
Judge Kara began reading his verdict at 9 a.m., behind closed
doors with only a few journalists allowed into the hall, by noting
that the ex-president had made a mistake when he suddenly walked
away from a lenient offer of a plea bargain.
Witnesses said Katsav murmured "no" as the verdict was being read
Dozens of activists from women's rights groups demonstrated
outside the court, holding up posters in support of victims of
sexual harassment, including one which said, "You are not alone".
Before the accusations surfaced, Katsav had portrayed himself as
self-made man who rose from a poor immigrant family from Iran to
become Israel's number one citizen in 2000 after a lengthy but
relatively undistinguished career as a front-bench lawmaker and
minister for the Likud party.
The charges first came to light in July 2006, when the then-
president complained to Israel's attorney general he was being
blackmailed by a female employee in the president's office.
The attorney-general launched an investigation, which as it
proceeded exposed a pattern of behaviour in which Katsav would
start sexual liaisons with female subordinates, and according to
Thursday's verdict, forced himself upon them.
Once one woman complained against him, others who had worked with
him over the years - when Katsav was tourism minister from 1996
until 1999 and president from 2000 until 2007 - followed suit.
The married father of five and grandfather of two has insisted he
was innocent, and claimed the women acted out of bitterness due to
his rejecting either their professional or romantic advances. He
also accused the media of staging a "lynching".
The indictment eventually filed against him included two counts of
rape, two counts of committing an indecent act, two counts of
sexual harassment, once count of harassing a witness and one count
of obstruction of justice.
In Thursday's ruling, he was acquitted of only one charge of
allegedly harassing a witness.
Speaking at the start of his trial in May 2009, Katsav had said:
"I am fighting to prove my innocence. We are setting out on a
long, hard struggle to clear my name."
There was no comment from him Thursday, but Attorney Avigdor
Feldman vowed his client "will not let up on his will to prove his
But prosecutor Ronit Amiel countered: "This is not a happy day.
This is not an easy day, but this day does teach about the
strength of Israeli democracy, that also people of power and
presidents" have no impunity.
It was the first time a former president stood trial in Israel and
was seen as a blow to the standing of Israel's highest post.
In Israel, the president has largely ceremonial duties and, in a
country riven by political divides and where family values are
important, is seen as the one leader who represents all citizens.