Former Israeli President Convicted of Rape

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Israelis were both proud and ashamed on Thursday as the Tel Aviv District Court convicted former President Moshe Katsav on two counts of rape and sexual harassment charges.

Katsav's trial, held behind closed doors at the request of the state to protect the privacy of the plaintiffs, began about a year and a half ago on charges stemming from his term in the Tourism Ministry and later during his term as the country's president. His accusers - three women - have been identified all along only by initials.

The charges of rape stem from Katsav's time at the Tourism Ministry 12 years ago. But judges said the time span did not mean that the woman identified by the Hebrew letter "Aleph" was lying.

"Aleph is honest and speaking the truth, while Katsav's testimony is full of lies," the judges said.

The public story began four years ago when Katsav turned to police accusing a former female employee of extortion after she threatened to expose him as a sexual deviant. She was not part of the indictment in the end, but the investigation turned up the other women who accused Katsav.

A public outcry against Katsav forced his resignation as president. Katsav has pleaded his innocence all along and even turned down a lenient plea bargain two years ago.

The story is not over yet. The judges could now decide to send Katsav to jail for decades. But Katsav has said he will appeal the verdict in the Supreme Court.

Katsav is only the latest in a series of Israeli politicians under investigation or convicted of wrong-doing, including former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has been indicted on corruption charges; former Justice Minister Tsachi Hanegbi, found guilty of perjury; and former Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai, who was convicted of harassing and sexually assaulting two women.

On the bright side, many Israelis feel they have seen the correct carriage of justice.

"From today, every woman - whether she has a doctorate or a fourth-grade education - will know that some things no one has the right to do to her against her will. That no one can harass her any more without being called to account," Neri Livneh wrote in the daily Ha'aretz.

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