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Katsav says he met Iran's president Khatami while in office

Ex-president Katsav gives his first interview since jail — to Iranian opposition TV

Iran-born Katsav, who was convicted of rape, criticizes Tehran regime in Persian-language interview to air Sunday on Iran International, which is followed by millions of Iranians

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

Former president and convicted rapist Moshe Katsav (back) and Iran International correspondent in Israel Babak Itzhaki in the promo of the upcoming interview. (Screenshot/Iran International)
Former president and convicted rapist Moshe Katsav (back) and Iran International correspondent in Israel Babak Itzhaki in the promo of the upcoming interview. (Screenshot/Iran International)

Former Israeli president and convicted sex offender Moshe Katsav on Wednesday gave a rare interview to Iran International, a news outlet identified with Iran’s political opposition, Channel 12 news reported.

In a preview of the interview that is expected to air in full on Sunday, the Iranian interviewer, speaking Persian, quotes Katsav as saying that he “still believes that a day will come when relations between Israel and Iran will be friendly again.”

The former president is presented in the 30-second teaser as born under an alias in the Jewish quarter of the city of Yazd in Iran, growing up in Tehran and moving to Israel with his family at the age of five.

The interviewer quoted Katsav as saying that the Iranian regime had become dangerously destructive, and aimed to destroy all hopes of peace in the region.

In the full interview, Katsav reportedly discusses a meeting he held while serving as president (2000-2007) with Iranian president Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) and describes shaking his hands and discussing the city of Yazd, where he was born, according to Channel 12.

This is Katsav’s first interview since he was jailed over a decade ago.

Katsav was convicted of rape and other sexual offenses in 2010. He was released from prison under restrictive conditions in December 2016 after serving five years of his seven-year jail sentence at the Ma’asiyahu Prison in Ramla. Channel 12 said it was conditioned on him not being asked about his sex crimes.

The rare interview, conducted in Persian, is expected to air on Sunday evening on the Iran International news outlet, which is followed by millions of Iranians. (Screenshot/Iran International)

The interview was conducted entirely in Persian by Jerusalem-based journalist Babak Itzhaki, who described Katsav during the interview as looking “broken and talking slowly.”

He described Katsav and his wife as “old people who live happily in their Kiryat Malachi villa” but said “it immediately became clear these were not the Katsav and Gila, his wife, whom we once knew.”

Itzhaki noted that the former president “still insists he’s innocent.”

Itzhaki, Iran International’s correspondent in Israel, was targeted by Iranian intelligence in an operation uncovered by Israeli intelligence last month.

The operation, revealed by the Shin Bet security agency, involved four Jewish Israeli women and one man who were recruited by Iranian intelligence to carry out espionage missions across the country for small amounts of money. Among their revealed targets were the Iran International news outlet and Itzhaki himself.

“Itzhaki became the target of people who were recruited by Iranian intelligence in Israel,” a Shin Bet statement read at the time. This was reportedly part of Tehran’s ongoing attempts to intimidate Iranian journalists and stifle freedom of press.

“Through coercion and manipulation of members of the Iranian community in Israel, actions by the Iranian regime have willfully endangered the security of Babak Itzhaki, his family and other members of the Iran International bureau in Israel,” a statement issued by Iran International following the exposed operation read.

Launched in 2017, London-based Iran International reaches millions of Iranians in Iran and around the world. It is considered an oppositional news outlet to Iran’s regime and has made headlines for covering issues like human rights violations, LGBTQ+ rights and women’s rights in Iran.

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