Katsav arrives at prison to begin 7-year sentence

Former president to be under suicide watch in jail, will share a cell with ex-government minister Benizri (Shas).

Katsav enters Massiyahu prison_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Katsav enters Massiyahu prison_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
president and convicted rapist Moshe Katsav made history Wednesday when he became the first president to serve prison time.
Katsav was accompanied by family and close friends as he left his home in Kiryat Malachi, where he was escorted by police into Maasiyahu prison in Ramle. His relatives were not allowed to enter into the jail with the former president, who arrived shortly after 10:00 a.m.
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Analysis:Katsav remains defiant He will be placed in the religious wing of the prison, and will share a cell with ex-government minister Shlomo Benizri of Shas – a move Prisons Service staff say will ease the shock from the sudden change of environment.A warden will be assigned exclusively to the ex-president to ensure he does not attempt suicide, Prisons Service chief Aharon Franco said on Tuesday during a Knesset hearing.
Katsav, who turned 65 on Monday, will be allowed to wear his own clothes behind bars, though he will have to don Prisons Service uniform during court appearances, should he make future appeals.
Katsav is escorted by police [Reuters]Katsav is escorted by police [Reuters]
The religious wing houses 72 prisoners, is free of televisions, and inmates spend most of their time in two seminaries studying Torah.
The inmates also routinely meet with social workers as part of a rehabilitation program.
Katsav was unanimously convicted in the Tel Aviv District Court a year ago of two counts of rape, two counts of sexual harassment, an indecent act using force, and obstruction of justice. The Supreme Court upheld the Tel Aviv court's sentence following an appeal by the former president's defense.
Even up to his last public statement before leaving his his home in Kiryat Malachi, Katsav maintained his innocence.
"Today, in Israel, a man is executed," he told reporters.
Joanna Paraszczuk contributed to this report.