Israeli ex-President Katsav convicted of rape

65-year-old Katsav, who was charged with raping and sexually abusing a former employee from the Tourism Ministry, was convicted by a Tel Aviv District Court, which declared his version of events as "riddled with lies".

The former President appeared pale, shaking his head in disbelief after the judges read out the verdict convicting him of two counts of rape, which can lead to a severe sentence of four to 16 years in jail.

The verdict in the case comes almost four years after complaints of severe sexual offences surfaced against Katsav, which relate to his terms as Tourism Minister and President of the State of Israel.

"The event happened in the accused's office," the judges said adding, "... this is not sexual harassment, this is rape."

Referring to the victim as 'A', the judges said that just because 'A' complained years after the event, does not mean that she is lying, adding that her testimony contradicts Katsav's.

"I knocked on the door, and he was wearing just a shirt, and came close to me. I told him 'enough, stop,' but he continued for ten minutes," Judge George Kara quoted 'A' as saying.

The court said that the complainant's testimony is backed by evidence.

In the courtroom, Katsav's sons protested saying "it's not true, it's not true!"

Judge Karra, while reading out the verdict, also emphasised that the lengthy time that passed over the course of the trial brought about new evidence supporting A's claim and essentially discrediting Katsav.

In addition, the former President was also charged with sexually harassing one 'H' from the President's Residence, sexually abusing and harassing another person 'L' from the President's Residence; and harassing a witness and obstructing justice.

The year-long trial took place almost entirely behind closed doors and left the public wondering whether the former President took a wise risk by withdrawing from a very lenient plea bargain about two years ago.

Judge Karra said that in choosing not to accept a plea bargain, Katsav had shuffled the deck in his case. "The defendant added himself to the litany of accusations and defamations."

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