JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Supreme Court upheld the rape conviction of former President Moshe Katsav.
Thursday’s ruling confirmed the Tel Aviv District Court’s decision last December to convict Katsav on two counts of rape and other sexual offenses, and its sentence in March of seven years in prison. The three Supreme Court justices had heard the appeal over three days in August.
Katsav, 65, who has been free pending the appeal, was given one month to put his affairs in order and is set to enter prison on Dec. 7. He is the first Israeli president ever sentenced to prison.
Katsav was joined in court by his children and other family members, but his wife, Gila, did not attend the proceedings.
The Supreme Couirt justices noted that while they saw no reason to change the district court’s ruling, they believed that the sentence issued was harsh. They also acknowledged that the case was very hard on Katsav since it also was tried and decided in the media.
Nearly three 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. A yearlong trial was held mostly behind closed doors.
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.