Israeli President faces rape claim – SMH – 16 Oct.06

Moshe Katsav

Police recommended on Sunday that Israeli President Moshe Katsav be charged with rape, sexual assault and fraud, the most serious charges ever to face an Israeli leader.

The recommendation came at a meeting between police investigators and Attorney-General Meni Mazuz. The final decision on whether to put the President on trial is up to Mr Mazuz.

The police said they also found a basis for charges of fraud and malfeasance in office in the case of pardons granted by the President, as well as illegal wiretapping, while investigations concerning disrupting a police investigation and harassing a witness were still in progress.

While a previous president and several prime ministers have been suspected of financial misdeeds and a former defence minister was convicted of sexual harassment, the charges facing Mr Katsav would be the most serious criminal counts brought against a serving Israeli official.

Mr Katsav has denied all wrongdoing. However, if indicted he would most likely have to step aside. In Israel, the President holds a largely ceremonial role with little authority, but is considered a unifying force in a fractured society.

Israel Radio and Channel 2 TV said the case against Mr Katsav was based on complaints by five women who allege he made unwanted sexual advances toward them during his tenure as President, and before that as a government minister. Complaints by five other women are not being pursued because the statute of limitations had run out, the reports said.

The investigation of Mr Katsav began earlier this year after a former employee alleged he forced her to have sex under the threat of dismissal.

Police repeatedly questioned him at his official residence and seized personal documents.



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