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Ex-Israel president jailed for rape

Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav has been jailed for seven years at a court in Tel Aviv for rape and other sexual offences.

He was convicted in December of raping a former employee and sexually harassing two other women who used to work for him.

The court rejected Katsav's lawyers' request for leniency, making him the highest-ranking Israeli official ever sent to jail.

Katsav, who maintains he is innocent, broke down in tears and screamed at the judges: "You made a mistake. It is a lie. The girls know it is a lie."

In December, Tel Aviv District Court found the 65-year-old guilty of raping a former employee and sexually harassing two other women who used to work for him. He was also convicted of indecent acts and obstruction of justice.

In sentencing the disgraced politician, the court said Katsav's record of public service would not be weighed in his favour, accusing him instead of exploiting his position to become a sexual offender.

The former president, who resigned under public pressure two weeks before his term was to end in 2007, went to trial after rejecting a plea bargain which would have kept him out of jail.

Katsav denied all allegations, claiming he was a victim of a political witchhunt and suggesting he was targeted because he is a Sephardic Jew - a Jew of Middle Eastern origin.

The case began nearly five years ago when he complained that a female employee was trying to bribe him. She went to police with her side of the story, and other women came forward with similar complaints of sexual assaults.

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