Former Israeli president starts jail term for rape conviction

 

Israel's former president, Moshe Katsav, began a seven-year jail sentence for rape and sexual offences yesterday, insisting that he was an innocent man who was being "buried alive".

His detention marks the culmination of an unedifying public spectacle that has dragged on for five and a half years. His conviction last December was hailed by Israelis as a victory for the legal system, proof that no man is above the law, even as it cast an unflattering spotlight on the country’s political elite, brought low by a series of scandals in recent years.

Katsav, a 66-year-old immigrant from Iran, was convicted of twice raping a female employee while a Cabinet minister, and sexually harassing two other women during his tenure as head of state from 2000 to 2007. He lost his appeal against the conviction last month.

Before leaving for Maasiyahu prison in central Israel yesterday morning, a haggard Katsav proclaimed his innocence to reporters, saying that his conviction was based on a version of events, and not evidence. “The state of Israel is executing a man today on the basis of impressions, without real time testimony, without evidence,” the disgraced politician said. “One day, consciences will prick and you will see that you buried a man alive.”

Lacking forensic evidence, prosecutors built the case against Katsav relying almost entirely on the testimony of his victims. The women did not know each other, yet provided remarkably similar accounts of his behaviour, which legal experts believe may have convinced the judges of his guilt. Sentencing him, the judge said that Katsav was “manipulative,” and that his testimony was “riddled with lies.”

Few, though, expected the sentencing to be so severe, not least because of the intense media scrutiny and his years of public service. But it was precisely because he had abused a position of power that the judge said he was compelled to deny him leniency.

Katsav has never accepted any wrongdoing: “I’m about to pay the price for something I haven’t done,” he told the AP. “I’ve hugged and kissed women but not in an inappropriate way. We’ve become like Saudi Arabia. A hug is a sex offence.”

The former head of state has consistently insisted that he is the victim of a media witch-hunt, motivated, he claims, by racial discrimination and disdain for his working class background.

When the allegations against him became public in 2007, he came under enormous pressure to resign the presidency, forcing him to hand over to rival Shimon Peres. He initially accepted a plea bargain that spared him jail, to the fury of women’s rights groups, but later decided to prove his innocence in the courts.

A series of high-profile scandals have left many Israelis feeling deeply disillusioned with the country’s political elite in recent years. Ehud Olmert, a former prime minister, is on trial for corruption, while Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is facing charges of fraud.

Suggested Topics
News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits