Former president exits prison after five-year rape sentence
Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav walked free from prison yesterday, winning early release five years after he was put behind bars for rape in a landmark case that disgraced the country's political system but also delivered a key victory for women's rights.
Katsav exited the Maasiyahu prison in central Israel, accompanied by his wife, Gila, and other family members. Wearing a dark suit and skullcap, Katsav smiled but did not comment to a crowd of reporters before getting into a car and driving away.
His lawyer, Zion Amir, told Channel 10 TV that he had a short phone call with an emotional Katsav and planned to see him later in the evening at his home in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi.
"He's happy and confused and angry and satisfied," Amir said.
Dozens of supporters greeted Katsav as he arrived at his home, shrieking with joy, warmly hugging him and hoisting bouquets of flowers.
Katsav, 71, was sentenced to a seven-year term in 2011 after being convicted of two counts of raping an employee and sexually harassing other women. Last week, a parole board accepted his request for early release, saying the disgraced politician, who has denied any wrongdoing, had undergone a "change" behind bars. It had rejected previous requests for parole.
Israel's presidency is a largely ceremonial office, typically filled by a respected elder statesman expected to rise above politics and serve as a moral compass. Most political power is in the hands of the prime minister.
Katsav denied all allegations, claiming he was a victim of a political witch-hunt and suggesting he was targeted because he is a Sephardic Jew - a Jew of Middle Eastern origin. At his conviction, he even shouted at the judges, saying "The lies have won!" But in their ruling, the three-judge panel said his version of events was "strewn with lies".