An Israeli court sentenced Moshe Katsav, the country's former president, to seven years in prison for rape on Tuesday. The sentencing is the latest stage in a sordid drama that Israel's leaders point to as proof of the principle of equality before the law, but one that has also seen the prestige of Israel's highest office brought to a historic low.
Mr. Katsav, who has consistently maintained his innocence, burst into tears upon hearing the sentence, according to reports from inside the Tel Aviv courtroom, and shouted at the judges that they had made a mistake, crying out, "It is a lie! The girls know it is a lie!"according to New York Times.
"This is a day of sadness and disgrace," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "At the same time, it is a day of pride in our justice system that has clearly set down the principle that everyone is equal before the law."
The 65-year-old Katsav stepped down as president, a mainly ceremonial position, in January 2007 after Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said there was evidence for an indictment. Shimon Peres, the former Israeli prime minister who shared the Nobel Prize for pursuing peace with the Palestinians, succeeded Katsav as president, Bloomberg reports.