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Former Israeli president proclaims innocence
En route to serve 7-year rape sentence, former Israeli president says is being 'buried alive'
By The Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) ' Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav defiantly accused the state of Israel of "executing" an innocent man, just before he drove off Wednesday to a prison in central Israel to start serving a seven-year sentence for rape.

Katsav was convicted last December of raping a former female employee when he was a Cabinet minister, and of sexually harassing two other women when he was president from 2000 to 2007. The case has both riveted and appalled the nation, with the former president's conviction hailed as a victory for women's rights and equality under the law.

In a brief statement to the hordes of journalists who had descended upon his home before he set off on the hourlong drive to Maasiyahu prison, a grim-faced Katsav accused authorities of ignoring evidence that could clear him. He predicted that one day, "the truth will come to light."

"The state of Israel is executing a man today based on impressions, without real time testimony, without evidence," Katsav railed. "One day, consciences will prick and you will see that you buried a man alive."

In the absence of forensic evidence, prosecutors built their case almost entirely on witness testimony. Legal experts say the similarities in the accounts of victims who did not know each other likely led to the conviction, in which the judges accused Katsav of lying.

Katsav becomes the highest-ranking Israeli official ever to enter prison.

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