Conflict & Justice

Moshe Katzav, former Israel president found guilty of rape, still claims innocence


Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav arrives at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Nov. 10, 2011.


Menahem Kahana

JERUSALEM — Israel’s former president, Moshe Katzav, presented himself this morning at Ma’asiyahu prison in central Israel to begin serving a seven-year sentence for two counts of rape, sexual harassment, indecent acts and obstruction of justice.

As he departed for jail, his home in the northern town of Kiryat Malakhi, where he served as mayor before entering national politics, was thronged by reporters and some 100 chaotic supporters, some of whom screamed that the women who accused Kaztav of his crimes were “whores.”

Addressing himself to the crowd, Katzav, 66, said, "One day it will be clear that an innocent man is being buried alive. The truth will be revealed. The day will come. I don't know when. It will happen with or without me. What could be worse than the incarceration of a man, a grandfather, a president who is innocent of all charges?”

Repeatedly referring to his predicament as an “execution,” Katzav claimed he was being put to death on the basis of mere “impressions — without testimonies or evidence." Dismissing outright his conviction last year, and his appeal, which was rejected by the Supreme Court, Katzav continued to maintain that a gross miscarriage of justice is being carried out.

"Everyone who knows me knows that the accusations are false," he said. "A man is being executed today because the court rejected real-time schedule books from 1998 belonging to four different people. A man is being executed because the authorities rejected the opinion of the Jerusalem District Prosecutor, who is authorized to judge in such cases, who thought the case should have been dismissed five years ago. A man is being executed because I innocently believed in the police and the office of the attorney general.”

In a rare interview on the eve of his incarceration, Katzav told The New York Times, “I’m about to pay the price for something I haven’t done. I’ve hugged and kissed women, but not in an inappropriate way. We’ve become like Saudi Arabia. A hug is a sex offense.”

The Iranian-born Katzav also suggested that he has the victim of ethnic and economic bigotry: “The fact is that I am from a Muslim country and from a development town.”