[JURIST] Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Sunday appeared before the Supreme Court of Israel [official website, in Hebrew] to begin the appeal of his conviction and seven-year sentence for rape and sexual assault [JURIST reports]. The proceedings, which are being held in open court, are expected to conclude following two weeks of arguments [JTA report]. Katsav's sentence was postponed in May, shortly after he filed the 300-page appeal [JURIST reports]. Following a request from Katsav's defense team made at the time of the appeal's filing, the court ruled earlier that its contents will be conditionally released to the public in the future. The Tel Aviv District Court [official website, in Hebrew] convicted Katsav in December, finding that he assaulted a female employee of the Department of Tourism during his time as minister and two women at the President's Residence during his time as president. Katsav's appeal puts forth that his relationship with the female employee was consensual and the trying judiciary was biased against him due to the media's pervasiveness during the trial.
Katsav was initially indicted on rape charges [JURIST report] in 2009 for allegedly assaulting female employees in the 1990s. In 2008, Katsav rejected a plea agreement [JURIST report] that would have permitted him to plead guilty to lesser charges of indecent assault, sexual harassment and obstruction of justice in exchange for a suspended sentence and the dropping of rape charges. The plea deal had been criticized [JURIST report] by women's and civil rights activists, prompting five separate petitions to overturn the agreement.