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Former President Moshe Katsav's conviction is unlikely to be overturned on appeal, but his sentence may well be changed, said Prof. Yoram Shachar, an expert in criminal law from the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

"The chances that Katsav would be acquitted by the Supreme Court are near zero," he said. "But there is a chance that one of the charges against him could be changed ... and that would obviously also affect the sentence."

The dissent by Judge Judith Shevach, who favored a shorter jail term for Katsav, creates a real chance that the Supreme Court will reduce the sentence, Shachar added. Yet he sees an equal chance of the sentence being increased on appeal.

Overall, he said, "It's an ordinary ruling about an ordinary man. They weren't overly harsh with him, nor were they overly lenient."

Nevertheless, he feels the majority judges did not give sufficient weight to the argument that Katsav was essentially convicted by the media and the public even before the trial began. That was also Shevach's view, and was the main reason for her dissent. The majority ruling, Shachar said, "sends no message to the media regarding appropriate coverage of a case of this nature," and he considers that a missed opportunity.

Dr. Orit Kamir of the Peres Academic Center, who recently did a study of sentencing in sexual harassment cases, said she hopes yesterday's ruling signals a change in the previous pattern of leniency toward senior officials who commit sex crimes.

"Our study showed that the more senior the convict, the lighter the sentence he received for a sex crime," she said. "I hope this sentence will constitute a change of direction, such that the higher the convict stands on the ladder, the greater the price he will pay."

Dr. Dana Pogatch, who heads the Noga Legal Center for Victims of Crime at Ono Academic College, termed Katsav's sentence "appropriate." She particularly lauded the decision to award the woman he raped NIS 100,000 in compensation. But she regretted that another complainant received no compensation, as "compensation is the only way to show the complainants that their suffering was taken into account."

Dr. Noya Rimalt, a lecturer in law and feminism at Haifa University, said the Katsav case would prove a landmark in the battle against sex crimes, as it marked the first time a senior official had received a suitable punishment for sexual offenses.