A lawyer appealing former President Moshe Katsav's rape conviction suggested in court Sunday that his client might have lied when he denied having sex with his accuser.

At the opening session of the appeal, attorney Avigdor Feldman told Israel's Supreme Court that there was "a reasonable chance" Katsav and the woman had consensual sex, which would make their encounter an abuse of authority at most, Israeli news websites reported.

Katsav has denied having any sexual relations with the plaintiff.

Justice Salim Joubran, one of three Supreme Court judges hearing the case, asked why Katsav had not previously claimed to have had an affair with his accuser. Feldman did not respond directly to the question.

Katsav was convicted in December of raping an employee when he was a Cabinet minister in 1998 and of sexual offenses involving two other women when he was president from 2000 to 2007.

He was sentenced in March to seven years in jail, the country's highest ranking official ever ordered to prison.

In May, a Supreme Court judge allowed him to stay out of jail while appealing his conviction and sentence.

Katsav, 65, who denies any wrongdoing, claims he is a victim of a political witch hunt.