JERUSALEM — Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in prison for raping a woman and molesting others who worked for him when he held public office.
Katsav had been convicted in December on two counts of rape as well as indecent assault and sexual harassment. In announcing the sentence, the three-judge panel said Katsav had exploited his position to sexually assault and harass female subordinates when he was minister of tourism and during his term as president from 2000 to 2007.
“No person is above the law, whatever his status,” the judges said.
Katsav was ordered to report to jail on May 8, giving him time to prepare an appeal. Assuming the sentence is upheld, Katsav would become the most senior former official sent to prison in Israel’s history.
As the sentence was read out at the Tel Aviv District Court, Katsav, 66, broke down in tears. His son embraced him.
“It’s all a lie!,” Katsav shouted at the judges. “You are mistaken! The girls know that they lied!”
Katsav was given an additional two years suspended sentence and ordered to pay fines of about $28,000 to the rape victim and $7,000 to another woman he molested.
“This is a day of sadness and shame, but also of deep appreciation and pride in the Israeli justice system,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, adding that the court had affirmed the principle of equality before the law and that “every woman has the right to her body, dignity and freedom.”
Katsav, born in Iran, rose to the presidency from humble origins and, before the rape allegations, had been held up in Israel as a role model for Sephardic Jews of Middle Eastern descent.
His case riveted public attention, and was widely seen as a sign of changing norms in a society that in the past tended to condone sexual advances on women by men who held powerful positions in the Israeli government and the military.