Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav Convicted of Rape

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Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav was convicted Thursday of raping an employee when he was a Cabinet minister.

This is the most serious criminal charge ever brought against an Israeli head of state.

Katsav, 65, faces between four to 16 years in prison. He was found guilty of raping an employee in the 1990s when he was tourism minister and of later sexual harassment of two women while he was president from 2000-2007.

Katsav has denied the charges, claiming he was a victim of a political witch hunt.

He left the court room, surrendering his passport to await his sentencing.

Katsav’s son Boaz said the family will fight to prove his father’s innocence.

"We will continue to walk with our heads high and all the nation …with God’s help, will know that (my) father, the eighth president of the state of Israel, is innocent," said Boaz.

The conviction was widely praised as a victory for Israel’s legal system and for women’s rights.

"The court sent two clear and sharp messages: that everyone is equal and every woman has the full right to her body," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. He also called the verdict "a sad day for Israel and its citizens."

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