Page last updated at 08:15 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 09:15 UK

Israel's Katsav rape trial opens

Moshe Katsav giving a press conference on 12/3/09
Moshe Katsav says he wants to prove his innocence in court

The trial of former Israeli President Moshe Katsav, accused of rape and a series of sexual offences, has been adjourned until September.

Mr Katsav vowed to prove his innocence as he arrived at the court in Tel Aviv for the trial's opening.

The charges relate to accusations by several female employees who worked for Mr Katsav while he was tourism minister and, later, president.

If convicted of rape charges he could face up to 16 years in jail.

Mr Katsav, who resigned from the presidency in 2007, would become Israel's first head of state to be convicted of sex offences.


The court agreed to a defence team request to postpone for 30 days the submission of its detailed written response to all the charges facing Mr Katsav.

The judge also ruled that the trial should re-open on 1 September.

Mr Katsav arrived at the court on Thursday in a defiant mood.

"We are starting today a tough and long struggle to clear my name and I promise once again that I will emerge innocent," he told reporters.

Mr Katsav called off a plea bargain in 2008 that would have seen him plead guilty to sexual misconduct but avoid more serious charges, saying that he would stand trial in order to clear his name.

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