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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
News
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own