The former Tourism Ministry worker who complained four years ago that she was raped by former president Moshe Katsav, responded for the first time on Thursday to the guilty verdict delivered to Katsav earlier in the day.
The worker, known as "Aleph," said: "Seven years ago I met Moshe Katsav for the first time, and I hope that today, the worst seven years of my life can come to an end."
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"I heard the things said in the verdict. It is not possible to describe what I went through in more precise words. I salute the women who found courage and complained, and I'm happy the court brought the truth to light. I was given the obligation to put an end to the suffering of many women who worked under Moshe Katsav and to prevent the suffering of many more. I am grateful to all those who believed in me all the way through, who supported me and encouraged me in face of the smear campaign launched by Katsav and his people."
She concluded, "I am now considering what my next step will be and will announce it in the coming days."
Attorney: I'll recommend Katsav appeals verdict
Katsav's attorney, Avigdor Feldman, also reacted to Katsav's verdict on Thursday saying he would recommend that the former president appeal the verdict.
Feldman told Army Radio that "We can not accept this verdict." He said, "I tried to convince him [Katsav] to choose a plea bargain back then , but the poor accused ones always put their faith in the justice system and in the end they are proven wrong."
Katsav's attorney also commented on Katsav's condition after the delivery of the verdict, saying, "I am very worried and fearful for him, I hope he will have the strength to deal with this."
Judges: 'This is not sexual harassment, this is rape'
The decision was read at the Tel Aviv District Court earlier in the day. "The event happened in the accused's office," the judges said. "Aleph said no - she expressed dissent. This is not sexual harassment, this is rape."
The judges said that just because Aleph
complained years after the event, does not mean that she is lying.
"Aleph is honest and speaking the truth, while Katsav's testimony is full of lies," the judges determined.
Judge George Kara quoted Aleph as saying: "I knocked on the door, and he was wearing just a shirt, and came close to me. I told him 'enough, stop,' but he continued for ten minutes."
Katsav was also found guilty of sexually assaulting Heh, who worked at Beit Hanassi and sexual harassment of Lamed Yod, then an 18-year-old National Service volunteer at Beit Hanassi.
Lamed Yod complained that Katsav made sexual comments and kissed her on her neck without permission, but later changed her testimony. However, her father testified that Lamed Yod came home from her service upset because of the way the former president treated her, and a driver at Beit Hanassi also saw her leave the president's office upset.
The court said Aleph's testimony is backed up by evidence.
Katsav's sons, in the courtroom, shouted "it's not true, it's not true!"
The court said that Katsav and Aleph did not have an affair or any romantic connection, and that the former president did not have an alibi or witnesses to support his claims.
The judges said that the women accusing Katsav said that the former president forced them to write him love letters, thus fabricating evidence that would show he did not rape them.
In addition, Katsav was found guilty of obstruction of justice.
The verdict came a year-and-a-half after the start of his trial and 12 years after he allegedly committed the first of the offenses with which he was charged. Along with Katsav, the entire country held its breath in anticipation of the judges’ ruling.
"The accused claimed that the media treated him unfairly, but he was a part of the publicity and the slander," Kara said, reading the verdict. He mentioned the press conference Katsav held in the Beit Hanassi and the former president's criticism of former attorney-general Menahem Mazuz.
Various women's organizations demonstrated in front of the court, in solidarity with the women who accused Katsav. The demonstrators held signs reading "You are not alone" and "We believe you."
Ronit Amiel, a prosecutor in the case, said: "I salute the complainant."
"This is not a happy or an easy day for the nation, and not for the women in the case, but this day teaches us the strength of Israeli democracy," Amiel said. "Even presidents, when necessary, are brought to justice. This brings honor to Israeli society."
Katsav was driven from the Tel Aviv District Court to his home in Kiryat Malachi in the Audi he received from the state as a former president.