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Katsav charged with rape

The Israeli President, Moshe Katsav, faces calls for his resignation over a sex scandal, while female politicians have threatened to walk out of parliament if he attends.

Police recommended on last Sunday that Mr. Katsav face charges of rape and sexual assault allegedly committed against several women in his office. The Attorney-General, Menachem Mazuz, must now decide whether to file charges.

Mr. Katsav, who has held the mostly ceremonial post since 2000, denies any wrongdoing. He claims that at least one of his accusers was trying to extort money and that his political enemies were behind the investigation.

After an inquiry that lasted nearly two months, police on Sunday handed their findings to Mr. Mazuz. It could be weeks before he announces a decision. A joint statement by the police and the Justice Ministry said there was evidence that Mr. Katsav committed "rape, aggravated sexual assault, indecent acts without permission and offences under the law to prevent sexual harassment".

Israeli President Moshe Katsav, center, and his wife Gila, right, greet a female soldier during an open day at the President's Residence during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, in Jerusalem on Monday, Oct. 9, 2006. (AP)

The police inquiry allegedly also found evidence that the President had committed fraud and was engaged in illegal wiretapping. "As far as we're concerned, we've completed the investigation," a police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said. "There is hard evidence and hard facts in this case."

Mr. Katsav's lawyer, Zion Amir, said in a statement that the Attorney-General had dismissed past police findings into similar charges as insufficient. But the latest police statement is sure to intensify demands for Mr. Katsav's resignation. Parliament was due to open its winter session yesterday, an event Mr Katsav normally attends. His brother, Lior, told Israeli radio the President planned to attend but would not address the parliamentarians.

Several female politicians have threatened to walk out of the session if Mr. Katsav is present. "The President must resign," the Education Minister, Yuli Tamir, told Israeli television. "If he doesn't do so, I believe a process will be launched to force him to resign."

As president, Mr. Katsav is immune from prosecution while in office. But if he resigns or is impeached by parliament, he would have to face any charges against him, according to legal scholars. Mr. Katsav's seven-year term ends next year.

Though the case has received widespread coverage any charges against Mr Katsav are unlikely to have broader political ramifications, as the position is mainly symbolic.

However, the controversy surrounding Mr. Katsav comes as the public has expressed widespread disappointment in the country's leadership. Many Israelis say the Government and the military mismanaged the recent war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, a target for much of that criticism, also has been under investigation regarding the sale of his Jerusalem home and the purchase of a new one.

Several other politicians are under investigation or have been charged with wrongdoing, including the former justice minister, Haim Ramon, who resigned in August and was subsequently charged with sexual harassment.

(The New York Times)



Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Sri Lanka

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