Moshe Katzav
Moshe Katzav Kobi Gideon / Flash 90

A parole committee heard on Sunday the request of former President Moshe Katzav to have his seven-year rape sentence reduced by a third, an official said, with the decision postponed for next week.

A justice ministry spokeswoman said the three-person committee, comprised of a retired judge and two representatives of the public, heard Katzav and his lawyers argue for his early release, which would take place at the end of April if approved.

During the lengthy hearing, Katzav described his "tribulations" in the last decade starting with when he was placed on trial, and in particular during the last four years he has spent behind bars.

He continued to claim he was innocent of two charges of rape and other sexual crimes, and he began crying during the hearing according to Channel 2.

A representative of the Justice Ministry also appeared at the 12-hour hearing and expressed the ministry's opposition to Katzav's early release.

The spokeswoman said Katzav had not proved "he was worthy of an early release," primarily due to his not accepting the court's verdict, responsiblity for his crimes, or undergoing rehabilitation.

The panel was to convene again on April 3 to reach a decision on Katzav's request.

Katzav, 70, was sentenced in 2011 to seven years for two counts of rape as well as sexual harassment and obstruction of justice, in a scandal that rocked Israel.

The former president, forced to step down due to the allegations, consistently denied the charges and claimed to be the target of a media plot, claiming contact he had with his female staff while tourism minister and president was consensual.

AFP contributed to this report.

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