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Katsav starts prison term, still proclaims innocence

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Still pleading innocent, former Israeli President Moshe Katsav began his seven-year prison term for rape.

An ashen-faced Katsav entered Maasiyahu Prison on Wednesday after a delivering a prepared statement to reporters and supporters who mobbed the doorway of his home in Kiryat Malachi.

"Without any evidence, that State of Israel is putting a person to death," he said. "The day will come when the truth will emerge. I do not know when that will be — whether with or without you, whether with or without me."

Such remarks will have been bound to worry Katsav confidants who said they fear the 66-year-old could commit suicide or be persecuted behind bars by inmates whose clemency requests he turned down while head of state.

But Katsav, who was convicted a year ago of twice raping an aide when he was tourism minister in the 1990s and of molesting female staff in the President’s House, appeared to be pinning hopes on his Supreme Court appeal proceedings, which are still under way.

"I never hurt anyone," he said. "The conscience of those who committed this injustice will certainly awaken, and you will see that you buried a man alive."

Israeli law allows for jail terms to be cut by a third for good behavior, but that generally requires the inmate to admit guilt and voice regret for the crime committed.

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