Katsav - Alon Ron - March 22, 2011
Former President Moshe Katsav at his sentencing trial on March 22, 2011. Photo by Alon Ron
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Residents of former President Moshe Katsav's hometown Kiryat Malakhi expressed dismay on Tuesday after he was sentenced to seven years in prison for rape.

"We are certain that Moshe Katsav was convicted by the media. It is a disgrace that the state of Israel is sending its president to jail," said Tzion Asulin, a resident of the city.

"I just don’t get the judges,' he added, "He had already received his punishment. They should have let him go home, shame is the greatest punishment."

The former president was sentenced to seven years in jail Tuesday, after he had previously been found guilty of rape and other sexual offenses. Katsav will begin serving his sentence on May 8, 2011.

Another resident of the city, Golan Ganam, said as he watched the sentencing from a cafe in the town, "they have spilled his blood; this entire trial should not have taken place. The media convicted him. Leave him alone. He was framed. It's all a lie."

The court also ruled that Katsav must also serve two years of probation and pay NIS 100,000 to his rape victim, a former employee of the Tourism Ministry known as A., and to pay NIS 25,000 to L., a former employee of the President's Residence, whom he had sexually harassed and abused.

Following the reading of the sentence Katsav returned to Kiryat Malakhi accompanied by several family members. Yitzhak Saluki, one of his close friends who visited him at his home after the sentencing, said that "he feels like a cheated man."

"He told everyone who was in the house: 'Lord in heaven, I am not guilty. If I were guilty I would have taken the plea bargain,'" Saluki said.

"I do not believe that he will go to jail," he added. "Either the judges will accept the appeal, or help will come from heaven. Katsav will not go to jail."