Nawi - Emil Salman - 2010
Ezra Nawi in a Jerusalem courthouse in 2010. Photo by Emil Salman
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Israeli social activist Ezra Nawi expressed regret Thursday that Irish presidential candidate David Norris dropped out of the race, following revelations that the latter sought clemency for Nawi over statutory rape charges.

On Tuesday, Norris - who is openly gay and had intimate relations with Nawi - dropped out of the race. "I'm sorry David paid the price," Nawi told Haaretz. "It's the Irish people's loss. He could have been a politician on a global level," he said.

In 1992, Norris allegedly sent a letter to the Israeli court, seeking clemency for Nawi, who had been convicted of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy and was awaiting sentence at the time.

Nawi said at the time that he had had an affair with the 15-year-old boy in question, and it was only when the boy’s parents found out about it that they lodged a police complaint.

According to Israeli law, adults are prohibited from having sexual relations with a minor under the age of 16. Nawi defined the affair at the time as “a mistake.”

"I met Norris in 1975 in Dublin through a common friend," Nawi told Haaretz. "We were friends." He said Norris talked to him once since the scandal broke out. "This is a juicy story in Ireland," said Nawi, adding that he is convinced someone in Israel is trying to stain Norris' name. "I have no doubt that someone is involved," he said, "whether it's someone in the embassy or someone in Israel."