"An earthquake in Kiryat Malachi"– this how the residents of Moshe Katsav's hometown described Thursday's guilty verdict in the rape case against the former president.
Many residents defended Katsav, the former mayor of Kiryat Malachi, and others said they were not surprised by the guilty verdict, but they all agreed it was a sad day for the southern city.
Before the judges read the verdict, some of residents who were watching the drama unfold on TV yelled "he's innocent," but others weren't as supportive.
Katsav outside courthouse (Photo: AP)
"It's a disgrace for Kiryat Malachi that an honorable man such as Katsav, who represented the city for so many years, is accused of such charges," Ilana Atia said.
The guilty verdict stunned many of the city's residents, and some of them accused the media of blowing the affair out of proportion and influencing the judges.
"The judges are only human, they read the papers too. We still don't think he committed rape," one resident said.
"Katsav was slaughtered in public. How can it be that the woman remembered to file a complaint after seven years? It's a sad day for Kiryat Malachi, but I'll continue to support Katsav, because I know for a fact that he's not guilty," Rami Atia said.
Katsav, who returned to his home in the afternoon, has yet to respond to the verdict. His friend, contractor Shimon Vaknin, said "he got slapped from all directions. Everyone here is disappointed. We were certain he would be acquitted. I guess the judges were drunk."
Another resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said "unfortunately the people of Kiryat Malachi are not speaking the truth, although deep down inside they know it.
"We must respect the court's decision," the woman said.
Tova Dadon and Sharon Davidovitch contributed to the report
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