12/07/2011 08:15 EST | Updated 02/06/2012 05:12 EST

Former Israeli president proclaims his innocence as he enters prison

JERUSALEM - Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav entered a minimum security prison on Wednesday to start serving a seven-year sentence for rape, but not before defiantly accusing the state of Israel of "executing" an innocent man.

The day was a bittersweet one for Israel, both shameful because the former holder of a lofty office was going behind bars for such a heinous crime and at the same time, a point of honour because it showed that even a president is equal before the law in Israel.

Katsav, 66, was convicted last December of raping a former female employee when he was a Cabinet minister and of sexually harassing two other women when he was president from 2000 to 2007. The former president, who repeatedly has professed his innocence, remained free while he appealed his case, but the Supreme Court upheld the conviction last month and ordered him to prison.

"They are sending an innocent man to jail, period," Katsav told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday night.

"In my case there is no proof