Ex-Israeli president guilty of rape

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JERUSALEM. December 31. KAZINFORM Former President Moshe Katsav was convicted Thursday 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. Kazinform refers to Arab News.

Katsav, 65, 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 held the largely ceremonial office of president from 2000-2007.

It was a stunning fall from grace for a man who rose from poverty to the highest levels of power. He became a model of success for Sephardic Jews - those of Middle Eastern origin - who for decades were an ethnic underclass in society.

The conviction of a former president on rape charges - virtually unheard of in a modern Westernized country - was another victory in a decades-long struggle by women's rights groups to chip away at a macho culture that permitted Israel's early political and military leaders to get away with great liberties.

Katsav has denied the rape charges, claiming he was a victim of a political witch hunt and suggesting he was targeted because he is Sephardic. Katsav was born in Iran and immigrated to Israel as a child.

Katsav can appeal the verdict, but legal experts said Israel's Supreme Court was unlikely to overturn the conviction. A presidential pardon is also highly unlikely because of the severity of the offenses. In his ruling, the judge said Katsav's defense was full of lies.

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 also alleged that he harassed two women during his term as president. Kazinform cites Arab News. See www.arabnews.com for full version.

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