Israel court upholds ex-president's rape conviction

JERUSALEM Thu Nov 10, 2011 5:37am EST

Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav (2nd L) arrives to the Supreme Court to hear the verdict of his appeal on a rape conviction in Jerusalem November 10, 2011. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav (2nd L) arrives to the Supreme Court to hear the verdict of his appeal on a rape conviction in Jerusalem November 10, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Former President Moshe Katsav raped a former aide and molested two other women who worked for him, Israel's Supreme Court said on Thursday, upholding his conviction in a lower court and a seven-year jail term.

"He misused his high position and defiled the bodies and dignity of (his accusers)," the three-justice panel said in a unanimous ruling against Katsav's appeal and ordered him to report to jail to begin serving his sentence on December 7.

Katsav, 65, was president from 2000 to 2007. He was convicted in December of twice raping an aide when he was a cabinet minister in the late 1990s and sexually assaulting two other women who worked for him while he was president.

"The ruling of the Supreme Court reaffirms that everybody in Israel is equal before the law. Presidents and dignitaries must (also) be held to account for their actions," prosecution attorney Naomi Granot said after the verdict was given.

Katsav had consistently denied the charges. The court said his version of events had been "fundamentally unreliable."

"He fell from dizzying heights to a deep abyss," it said in its ruling. "It is hard to see someone who served as an official symbol of the state going to jail."

Parliament elected Katsav president in 2000 in a surprise victory over Shimon Peres, Israel's Nobel Peace Prize-winning elder statesman. Peres then succeeded Katsav as president, an appointment observers say has restored dignity to the post.

Although the scandal had forced Katsav to step down in disgrace, it had little impact on Israeli government functions, as the presidency is largely a ceremonial position.

(Editing by Myra MacDonald)

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