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Former Israel president vows to contest rape charge

MYT 4:03:06 AM

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav said on Thursday he would contest any charges that result from a long investigation into allegations that he raped and otherwise sexually assaulted female colleagues.

"I have hurt no one. I promise you the day will come when my accusers will see they were mistaken," he told a televised news conference in his first response to a March 8 statement in which the Justice Ministry said it intended to charge him for these offenses.

Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav speaks during a news conference in Kiryat Malachi March 12, 2009. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen)

Katsav resigned in 2007 during the investigation into allegations that he assaulted the women while he was president and earlier as a cabinet minister.

The case has riveted Israel's attention, shining a spotlight on sexual harassment in a heavily male-dominated society and on lingering tensions between Israelis from European countries and Sephardic Jews from Asian or African countries.

Katsav was born in Iran and was the first immigrant from an Asian country to become president of the Jewish state.

Katsav accused Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz and police of having "spilled my blood on a daily basis", subjecting him to a "terrible lynching" and a "hangman's noose," and having "put pressure on witnesses to try and convict a president."

Shimon Peres became president when Katsav stepped down nearly two years ago from the largely ceremonial post.

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