Katzav in court
Katzav in courtIsrael news photo: Flash 90

A three-judge panel of the Tel Aviv District Court unanimously convicted this morning former President Moshe Katzav of all charges against him, except for that of harassing a witness. He was convicted on two counts of rape, one count of an indecent act, sexual harassment of three women, and an attempt to obstruct justice. It is not known when the sentence will be handed down.

The tensions had been high in anticipation of the reading of the ruling, but as soon as Court President George Kara began without declaring Katzav innocent, it was clear that he had been found guilty of at least one of the charges against him. 

The judges declared that Katzav, a former Transportation Minister, should not have accused the media of "trying him publicly," because he himself "used the media to his advantage whenever he could."

The State Prosecution is now facing strong criticism for having offered a relatively moderate plea bargain offer to Katzav. Women's groups, on the other hand, have been empowered.

Public officials praised Israel's justice system, in light of the ruling. Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman said the "commandment not to sway justice had been fulfilled," while Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch said the ruling proves that all are equal before the law. The prosecutor in the case, Ronit Amiel, said that it shows the strength of Israel's democracy. 

A woman, known only by her first initial Aleph, accused Katzav over four years ago of attacking her more than once when she worked for him in the Transportation Ministry. Three other women also accused him of similar, though less serious, crimes. The charges by one accuser - another woman known as Aleph, who worked for Katzav in the President's office - were dropped over three years ago.

Katzav strongly denied the charges against him throughout the last four years. At one point, he even held an angry press conference, charging the media - and especially Channel Two - with waging a witch hunt against him.

The judges said that Katzav's testimony had been "replete with lies," and that he should have accepted the plea bargain that was offered him. He turned it down at the time, saying he would fight for his complete innocence. 

Katzav's wife Gila was not in court. His son broke down crying when the ruling was read aloud, and later continued to profess his father's innocence, while Katzav himself remained stone-faced.