"This is a special day for the State of Israel, a day of sadness and shame," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday referring to the sentence handed to former President Moshe Katsav. "But there is also deep appreciation and pride in the Israeli justice system."
Earlier on Tuesday, the Tel Avis District Court sentenced Katsav to seven years in prison. "No one is above the law, even if it is a president – we all answer to the law."
Speaking at the Prime Minister's Conference he added: "Each woman has a right over her body, a right for respect and freedom. No one has the right to take these things away from her."
President Shimon Peres addressed Katsav's sentencing saying: "It's a sad day, but we are all equal in the eyes of the law. The presidential institute was not discussed during the judicial process but rather the man who served as president. However the proceedings are not over."
When asked by soldiers, during his visit to the northern border, what will become of Katsav's statue standing at the President's Residence Peres replied: "You musn't change history, for good or for bad. History is full of bad and good things," said Peres.
On the day of Katsav's conviction, many visitors took a picture of themselves standing next to the former president's statue. Following the sentencing, over 66% of Ynet readers said they support the removal of the statue, whereas 34% said it should remain in place.
Katsav statue in President's Residence (Photo: Ronen Medzini)
Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni also commented on the sentence. "A day in which an Israeli president is sent to prison for rape is not a joyous day. I wish we would have never gotten to a state where a president has raped. You can't negate the presidency post factum but you can deny one's liberty," she said.
"A president should be elevated from the people by virtue of his position as a symbol. Side by side with the distress there is also great hope that Israel is in a process of change," Livni added.
Katsav and his attorneys leaving the court (Photo: AFP)
Katsav's Attorney Zion Amir said this was "a day of mourning for Israeli society".
"Whoever thinks the conviction of a former president is a celebration of Israeli democracy is mistaken, I think it is a sad day," Amir said.
Referring to Judge Judith Shevach's criticism on law enforcement elements Amir said a commission of inquiry might be called for. "Law enforcement elements trampled the defendant's rights."
Katsav leaving court (Photo: AP)
Attorney Avi Lavi from the defense team said that they plan on filing an appeal with the Supreme Court in the coming days. He also noted he believes the Supreme Court will reverse the conviction and exonerate his client. "I have no doubt that Judge Shevach's statements will resonate with the Supreme Court, there are serious claims."
Moshe Katsav was accused of moral turpitude Tuesday which effectively strips him of all benefits he was entitled to as a former president.
His service vehicle, house maintenance expenses, telephone line and daily paper will be taken away. He has already given up his bureau.
However, he will still retain his monthly pension payment of some NIS 45,000 (roughly $12,700).
Aviad Glickman, Naama Cohen-Friedman, Zvi Lavi and Roni Sofer contributed to this report
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