Ex-Israeli leader convicted of rape
Former Israel President Moshe Katsav is facing jail after being convicted of raping an employee when he was a Cabinet minister.
Katsav, 65, faces a minimum of four years and up to 16 years in prison on two counts of raping an employee in 1998 when he was tourism minister.
In a case that shocked the nation, the Tel Aviv District Court also convicted him on lesser counts of indecent acts and sexual harassment involving two other women who worked for him when he was president.
Katsav served as a minister in several right-wing Likud governments before he was elected president in 2000. He claimed he was an innocent victim of a political witch hunt, suggesting he was targeted because he comes from Israel's Sephardic community. Sephardic Jews, of Middle Eastern origin, were for decades an underclass. Katsav was born in Iran and immigrated to Israel as a child.
A sombre Katsav left the courtroom without commenting, surrounded by his lawyers. He was ordered to surrender his passport while awaiting sentencing at a date that has not yet been set.
His son Boaz vowed his father would clear his name. "We will continue to walk with our heads high and all the nation ... with God's help, will know that father, the eighth president of the state of Israel, is innocent," he said.
The court heard that 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. Katsav tried to calm his victim by saying: "Relax, you'll enjoy it."
It was also alleged that he harassed two women during his term as president, embracing them against their will and making unwanted sexual comments.
The conviction by a three-judge panel was widely praised as a victory for Israel's legal system and for women's rights - a sentiment reflected in the reaction of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"The court sent two clear and sharp messages: That everyone is equal and every woman has the full right to her body," he said in a statement. He called the verdict a sad day for Israel and its citizens.