8 Dec 2011

Ex president begins prison sentence

7:38 am on 8 December 2011

Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav has started a seven year prison sentence for rape.

Before leaving for Maasiyahu prison, he insisted he was innocent and accused the state of "executing" him and "burying a man alive".

Katsav, 66, was convicted a year ago, but was allowed to remain free while he appealed against the conviction.

He resigned from the largely ceremonial post of president two weeks before his seven-year term was to expire in 2007, under a plea bargain that would have allowed him to escape a prison sentence.

But he then rejected the deal, vowing to prove his innocence in court.

In November, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld his conviction for raping a former employee when he was a cabinet minister in the 1990s and for sexually harassing two other women while president.

The BBC reports Katsav will be placed in a wing that is reserved for observant Jews.

Prisons Service chief Aharon Franco told a Knesset hearing on Tuesday he will be assigned a special warden to ensure he does not attempt suicide, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Inmates in the religious section at Maasiyahu rise at 4.30am, attend morning prayers and spend much of their time in religious study, with no access to television.