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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Katsav may commit suicide if jailed for rape conviction, warns his lawyer

The former president is due begin a seven-year jail term on May 8; his defense team plans to appeal the sentence

Former President Moshe Katsav's lawyer said Wednesday that he feared his client would commit suicide if forced to serve his seven-year sentence after convicted of rape.

Defense attorney Zion Amir told The Associated Press that Katsav - who denies all wrongdoing - thinks his conviction and sentencing dealt him a grave injustice.

The former president is due to enter prison on May 8. His defense team plans to appeal the sentence.

Amir noted Katsav's frustration, pain and despair, and when asked whether the former president might take his own life, the attorney replied: "I had a strong foreboding about that when they were reading the sentence."

At Tuesday's sentencing, the 65-year-old Katsav broke down in tears and screamed at the judges: "You have committed an injustice! The verdict is untrue. It is a lie. The lies have won!"

Katsav is Israel's highest-ranking official ever sentenced to prison.

In December, he was convicted of raping a former employee, sexually harassing two other women, as well as committing indecent acts and obstruction of justice. The rape occurred when he served as tourism minister in the 1990s, and other crimes were committed after he became president in 2000.

The judges called Katsav manipulative and said he lied in his testimony.

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