Former President's Trial Begins

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TEL AVIV, Israel - Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav's long-awaited trial got underway on Thursday in Tel Aviv District Court.

The trial began with a court official reading the indictment, which includes charges of rape, indecent acts, sexual harassment, obstruction of justice and tampering with a witness.

After Katsav pleaded not guilty to all charges, the three-judge panel, made up of the honorable George Karra, Miriam Sokolov and Judith Shevach said the trial will resume on September 1.

Following the plea, Katsav's attorney Tzion Amir said the defense would file their response within a month.

"We will file our response within 30 days," he said. "We completely deny all charges, and this will not change," Amir said.

Katsav spoke to reporters both before and after Thursday's proceedings.

"I am here for a long trial to fight for my innocence," the former president said beforehand.

"Here I won't be sentenced without being seen, without being heard and without having all the material of the investigation read," he said.

"We are heading out on a long and difficult battle to clear my name. God willing, I will remain innocent," Katsav said.

"A year ago, I decided to pass on a plea bargain, a plea bargain that was defined by the Supreme Court president as a light and minor one. I did this to fight for my innocence. I am here today by choice, and I am heading out on a long, difficult journey to fight for my innocence," he said.

"The State Prosecutor's Office has been saying for two years that they have doubts, that there is a good chance for a full acquittal. Five prosecutors have said the case should be closed," he said.

Meanwhile, outside the courtroom, demonstrators in T-shirts identifying themselves with one of the complainants, shouted "Katsav to prison" and asserting that "most of the public" believes he is guilty, an assumption on their part.

Source: YNet news

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