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Israeli Supreme Court hears Katsav plea

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Supreme Court began hearing an appeal by former President Moshe Katsav on his conviction for sexual offenses.

Katsav attended the hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Sunday. Arguments on both sides are expected to last for about two weeks. The court ruled last week that the appeal would be held in open court.

Katsav was sentenced to seven years in prison in March after being convicted last December of rape, sexual harassment and obstruction of justice. He is the first Israeli president ever sentenced to prison.

A Supreme Court judge in May ruled that Katsav, who was convicted following a closed-door trial that lasted a year, could remain out of jail until the end of the appeal.

Two years ago, Katsav had declined what was seen as a lenient plea bargain — one that dropped the rape charges for lesser charges and likely would have left him with a suspended sentence — saying that he wanted to clear his name in court.

Katsav, who immigrated to Israel from Iran in 1951, was elected president by the Knesset in 2000 in an upset over Shimon Peres. Katsav resigned in the wake of the allegations shortly before the end of his term in 2007, and Peres became president.

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