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Court: Former Israeli president guilty of rape, sexual harassment

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Fmr. Israeli president convicted of rape
  • NEW: Israeli prime minister calls it a "sad day" for the country
  • Moshe Katsav pulls out of an earlier plea deal
  • He is guilty on multiple charges of rape and sexual harassment.
  • He resigned the presidency in 2007 because of the sexual assault allegations

(CNN) -- A Tel Aviv district court Thursday found former Israeli president Moshe Katsav guilty of multiple charges of rape and sexual harassment.

The case involved three women -- two in the president's office and one in the tourism ministry.

In total, the three-judge panel found Katsav guilty of two charges of rape, two charges of forceful sexual harassment and one charge of sexual harassment.

Katsav left the court without saying a word, but his son defended him.

"We will continue to be proud of our father ... the whole nation will know that my father is innocent," said son Ariel Katsav. "This is a difficult verdict. It is difficult for the family."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it's a "sad day" for Israel.

Moshe Katsav found guilty in rape case
  • Moshe Katsav
  • Israel

"The court today stated two clear and unequivocal messages about the equality of all before the law and about a woman's right concerning her own body, Netanyahu said in a statement.

Katsav had agreed in 2007 to plead guilty to lesser charges and pay a fine to avoid jail time, but pulled out of the deal when it came time to enter his plea.

The plea bargain caused a public storm in Israel, mainly because it did not include charges of rape, contrary to what had been suggested in a draft indictment.

Katsav, of the center-right Likud Party, was president of Israel from 2000 to 2007. He was minister of tourism before that. The charges stem from allegations made against him in both jobs.

He resigned the presidency in June 2007 because of the sexual assault allegations.