Israel was shocked this morning as former president, Moshe Katzav was found guilty of two counts of rape, one of an obscene act, one of sexual harassment and of attempting to subvert the course of justice.
The Tel-Aviv District Court, headed by Judge George Kara, upheld the claims of three un-named women who had worked in Mr Katzav's office when he served as president and previously as tourism minister. The court's verdict was total and devastating, rejecting the defence's claims and describing the former president's version as "riddled with lies."
The main testimony against Mr Katzav, of A. from the Tourism Ministry, who accused Mr Katzav of raping her twice and performing an act of sexual abuse was accepted in whole. In addition he was convicted of sexually harassing H. and L. from the President's office. He was acquitted on only one charge, that he harassed one of the witnesses.
As the ninety-minutes verdict reading session ended, Mr Katzav and his entourage left the court without a word. Throughout the reading, the former president had sat silently in the front row of the court, though some of his family members burst out in protests when Judge Kara read out the rape conviction. The sentencing will be handed down at a later date. Mr Katzav was ordered to hand his passport over to the police and will not be allowed to leave the country, though the court decided not to order arrest or house-arrest.
Outside the Tel-Aviv District Court, dozens of women's rights activists who had gathered, greeted the verdict with cheers. Mr Katzav's son, Ariel, told the press a few minutes after the verdict that "we will continue to be proud of our father and follow him with our heads held high. We regret the fact the court sentenced him on the basis of rumours and hunches. We believe that in future generations, everyone will know that Moshe Katzav, the eighth president of Israel, was innocent."