The legal team representing former President Moshe Katsav said Thursday it would appeal to the Supreme Court following the verdict convicting him of two counts of rape and other sexual assault charges.
"How is it possible that none of the doubts that were made in the case were even mentioned in the verdict?" asked the head of the defense team, Avigdor Feldman.
But retired Judge Shelly Timan told Ynet that an appeal would not stand a chance. The judges who ruled on Katsav's case had been surprisingly harsh, he said, adding, "Their severe language surprised me."
Senior legalist Professor Ariel Bendor, of Bar Ilan University, agreed. "Because the trial took place behind closed doors there was no possibility of forming an opinion ahead of time, but at the time it seemed that the state's claims at the High Court of Justice raised doubt regarding the indictment's chances of success with rape charges," he said.
Timan said he had never heard Judge George Karra, who presided over a team of three who ruled on Katsav's case, speak as severely as he had during the verdict. The former judge said the speech would make it very difficult to appeal the ruling.
"The verdict is actually built in such a way that any appeal will not stand a chance," he said. Regarding the sentence he added, "There will be no escaping a jail sentence. He won't get the maximum penalty but it's difficult to know what the ruling will be."
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss's response to the verdict was to say he would consider revoking Katsav's benefits as former president. "We may have to form a thorough response and consider the issue of the former president's benefits," Lindenstrauss said.
Katsav's office is set to receive NIS 1,827,000 ($511,000) for 2011. As former president, he is also eligible for a 140 square meter office, three aides, a chauffer, two phone lines, and free medical services for himself and his wife for the rest of their lives.
'Court conveyed message to victims'
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was "a sad day for Israel and its residents." He added, "The court stated two messages very clearly today, about the equality of all citizens before the law and every woman's full right to her own body."
The prime minister was pre-empted by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish, who told newly sworn-in judges in Jerusalem that "it is a sad day, but it demonstrates the value of equality before the law and the oath against perverted justice and discrimination".
Opposition chairwoman Tzipi Livni also responded to the verdict. "The court's decision states a clear message regarding public figures in Israel, but more importantly it conveys a message to the victims," she said.
"Society's job is to support anyone courageous enough to come out after all these years and help here before those who try to libel her. The message conveyed by the court today will strengthen Israeli society."
Ronit Amiel, a prosecuting attorney in the case, said upon leaving the courthouse that the verdict "attests to the power of Israeli democracy".
"We salute you and believe that the message from the court today to victims of other crimes is: 'Do not be silent, the court convicted a former president of Israel today'."
President Shimon Peres, who was also present at the swearing-in ceremony, offered no comment on the verdict.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report
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