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Former Israeli President Moshe Katzav is a convicted rapist

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  • Guest 123
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    March 22, 2011 -- Israel's former President Moshe Katsav has been jailed for seven years for rape and other sex offences. He was convicted at an earlier hearing of raping an employee in the 1990s when he was tourism minister, and of later sexual offences while he was president. The rape victim, known as Woman A, told the court he had first attacked her at the tourism ministry office, and later at a hotel in Jerusalem. Katsav resigned from the largely ceremonial post of president in 2007. He had initially agreed with prosecutors to plead guilty to sexual misconduct, avoiding more serious charges. But he later withdrew the agreement and denied the rape allegations. Sentencing 65-year-old Katsav - the first former Israeli head of state to be jailed - the judges told him no-one was above the law. The Associated Press reported that Katsav broke down in tears when he heard the sentence, shouting at the judges: "You made a mistake. It is a lie. The girls know it is a lie." His lawyers told the BBC he would not go to jail immediately as the court had allowed him a 30-day grace period to lodge an appeal. After his conviction in December last year, Israeli media dubbed the case a political earthquake, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as "a sad day for Israel and its residents". According to court documents, he committed the rape in April 1998, and sexually harassed two women in 2003 and 2005 during his presidency. Judge George Karra told him: "We believe the plaintiff [Woman A] because her testimony is supported by elements of evidence and she told the truth." The judges said Katsav's evidence had been "riddled with lies". Women's groups in Israel welcomed the conviction, arguing that allegations of sexual harassment were too often ignored.

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  • Guest 123
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    February 22, 2011 -- The State Prosecution demanded Tuesday that former President Moshe Katsav, who was convicted of rape, be given a lengthy prison sentence by the court and be accused of moral turpitude. Katsav was convicted on two counts of rape and indecent assault and sexual harassment involving women who worked for him. He was also convicted of obstruction of justice. At the Tel Aviv District court on Tuesday, the prosecution demanded that the court sentence Katsav to a long prison term, followed by a probation period, and also demanded that he pay a fine to the complainants in the case. Judges decided that Katsav will be given his sentence on March 8.

    The law permits a sentence of 16 years in prison for rape, but based on precedent and comments by legal observers, there is a reasonable chance Katsav will receive less than this. One observer, attorney Ariel Atari, said the sentence would probably be a "single digit" number of years. In the full verdict released last month, the residing judges severely criticized the media for holding a "drumhead court-martial" to the former president, adding that while the coverage would not annul the verdict altogether, it may weigh in favor of the defense in its attempt to reduce Katsav's yet-to-be-delivered sentence. "We do not ignore the mental anguish the defendant suffered as a result of the infinite flux of harsh publications released against him through the media and which had declared him a sex offender prior to his trial," judges George Kara, Miriam Sokolov and Yehudit Shevah wrote in their verdict. The judges issued severe criticism of the Israeli media, saying that "lines were crossed in an unprecedented manner" in regard to the Katsav affair, adding, however, that the former president was at fault as well.

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  • Guest 123
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    January 16, 2011 -- The massive media coverage which surrounded the rape trial of former President Moshe Katsav may lead to a reduction of his sentence, the publication of Katsav's full verdict revealed on Sunday. The Tel Aviv District Court's conviction was announced at the end of December, but only part of the verdict was made public. Katsav was convicted on two counts of rape, indecent assault and other sexual offenses. In the verdict, the residing judges severely criticized the media for holding a "drumhead court-martial" to the former president, adding that while the coverage would not annul the verdict altogether, it may weigh in favor of the defense in its attempt to reduce Katsav's yet-to-be-delivered sentence.

    "We do not ignore the mental anguish the defendant suffered as a result of the infinite flux of harsh publications released against him through the media and which had declared him a sex offender prior to his trial," judges George Kara, Miriam Sokolov and Yehudit Shevah wrote in their verdict. The judges issued severe criticism of the Israeli media, saying that "lines were crossed in an unprecedented manner" in regard to the Katsav affair, adding, however, that the former president was at fault as well. "The defendant took on the same modus operandi utilized against him, and began shooting poisonous arrows at those he considered to be seeking his injury," the judges wrote.

    In the newly published full verdict, the judges quoted past rulings which recognized the court's ability to take the defense's abuse of process claim into account when weighing a sentence. The verdict continued, stating, "The court may rule that the harm caused to the defendant, although not sufficient to justify total annulment of the indictment, may be grounds for dropping specific charges or reducing his [Katsav's] punishment in the event of conviction." Katsav trial judges also quoted an article written by former Haaretz legal writer, the late Professor Ze'ev Segal and judge Avi Zamir, stating that the court could take the lack of decency and justice into consideration when sentencing the defendant. The conduct of former Attorney General Menachem Mazuz was also scrutinized in the verdict, who was chastised for expressing his opinion regarding Katsav's behavior before he had decided whether or not to indict. Key witnesses and public figures are also the target of the judges' criticism saying they "gave interviews 'upon the hills and under every luxuriant tree,' [in an excessive manner] while confidently declaring the defendant's guilt."

    On Thursday the district court panel of judges ruled that the additional details that Katsav wanted released were liable to seriously violate A.'s privacy and could potentially lead to the disclosure of the identity of another complainant whose allegations were barred by the statute of limitations. Katsav had requested that nothing other than details identifying the complainants be removed, claiming that any further omissions would result in a failure to present the full picture of the court proceedings. The judges said the disclosure of the information may deter rape victims from filing complaints in the future. They further added that this was what led them to refuse a public trial. The court did not, however, recognize the privilege that A. from the Tourism Ministry sought to invoke regarding other details in the verdict, saying that this was not a serious violation of her privacy.

    Judges on Katsav: Confrontational and untrustworthy

    While the full verdict does not change the tone or general attitude of the briefer version published two weeks ago, it does provide a great deal more detail regarding Katsav's conduct toward employees, including quotes by both victims and corroborating witnesses. The verdict is surprisingly depleted of quotes from Katsav's testimony because the request that the court publish his full testimony is still pending. Writing of Katsav's testimony, the judges wrote in their verdict the it could "not serve as a basis to determine findings," saying the former president's version was "unauthentic and insincere." "[Katsav's testimony] was tainted with a confrontational attitude toward the accuser's representatives and by selective interpretation of both the witnesses' accounts and the evidence," the judges said, adding that his testimony "seemed more like an analysis of the evidence than the recollections of a person who wishes to give honest testimony as someone who experienced the events first hand and could testify from his heart on the horrible wrong done to him."

    The judges went on to say that the "defendant demonstrated a miraculous memory in matters that could aid him in his defense, and with a lack of recollection in matters which could potentially implicate him." Katsav was also noted for his "eloquent speech, adept at navigating words and expressions, like someone who can blow hot and cold wind at the same time. When speaking of his confrontational style, the judges said the former president responded with "aggression, slander, and false accusations at whomever dared say anything that did not meet his expectations." "His answers were verbose and long, drifting toward irrelevant and distant issues, despite repeated remarks made by both the court and his defense team," the judges remarked.

    In general, the verdict reflected a complete trust in the victims' version combined with an almost complete distrust of Katsav's testimony. While Katsav is chastised for every inconsistency in his testimony, the judges treated the victims with forgiveness and understanding." When referring to the main witness, A of the Ministry of Tourism, the judges wrote that they were under the impression that she did not "tell a tall tale, and her account was of a victim of sexual assault," adding that A "was not wily or sophisticated." "She is naïve and innocent, prone to pleasing her environment and respecting authority," the judges wrote.

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  • Guest 123
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    December 30, 2010 -- A panel of Israeli judges has found former President Moshe Katsav guilty of rape and other sex crimes against several women. Mr. Katzav, who served from 2000 until 2007, faces a possible sentence of up to 16 years in prison. Former Israeli President Moshe Katzav had turned down a plea bargain and opted instead for a trial that he hoped would clear his name. On Thursday, a panel of judges in Tel Aviv said the former leader's testimony was riddled with lies and declared him guilty on two counts of raping an employee while he was a cabinet minister in the late 1990s. The judges also convicted him of molesting or sexually harassing two other women during his time as president.

    Following the verdict, his son, Ariel Katzav, told reporters he believes his father is innocent. The younger Katzav called it a difficult hour for the family. He said the family will continue to be proud of their father. He called the trial immoral, and one that was based on emotions. He said the family will continue to proclaim to everyone that Moshe Katzav is "innocent". Israeli women's rights advocates welcomed the verdict. Mr. Katzav, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, left the court without making any comments. The Prime Minister issued a statement calling it a sad day for the Jewish state. Mr. Katzav's conviction Thursday was the latest in a series of highly publicized scandals involving top Israeli officials. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who led the country at the time Katzav was President, currently faces corruption charges.

    The job of President in Israel is largely ceremonial but highly visible, and many Israelis see Mr. Katsav's conviction on sex offenses a national disgrace. However, Abraham Diskin, a politics professor at Hebrew University, tells VOA the fact that a sitting president was indicted and later convicted says much about the health of the Jewish state's democracy and institutions. "It's definitely I think a very clear sign of the power of the judicial branch in Israel. In order to have a real democracy, too many conditions are necessary and let me say that the first of all these is to be ready to stick to reality and to the truth," said Diskin. The head of the judges' panel that convicted Mr. Katzav is a member of Israel's Arab minority. The former president is due to be sentenced in January. Under Israeli law, rape carries a minimum penalty of four years in prison and a maximum of 16.

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  • Guest 123
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    March 19, 2009 -- Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav has been formally charged with rape and other sexual offences. The indictment was filed in a Tel Aviv court. No date has yet been set for the actual trial. The charges relate to accusations by a number of female employees who worked for Mr Katsav while he was tourism minister and president. Mr Katsav, who resigned the presidency in 2007, vigorously denies the charges against him. He called off a plea bargain in 2008 that would have seen him plead guilty to sexual misconduct but avoid more serious charges. The 63-year-old said he wanted to prove his innocence in court. If convicted of rape charges, Mr Katsav can face up to 16 years in jail. He would become Israel's first head of state convicted of sex offences. According to the indictment, he is accused of twice raping an employee while tourism minister between 1996 and 1999, and also of carrying out a forced indecent act on her. Mr Katsav is also alleged to have sexually harassed two other employees - and in the case of one of the women carried out an indecent act - in the presidential office after he took on the ceremonial role in 2000. He faces a further charge of tampering with a witness after the scandal came to light in 2006. Earlier this month, an angry Mr Katsav told a news conference that he was "the victim of a lynching" by the judiciary, after news broke that he would be indicted. "I have been humiliated, crushed, knocked down, and I suffer. But I am determined to fight to ensure that the truth emerges, all the truth, because I am innocent," he said, flanked by his wife Gila. The justice ministry responded by accusing him of turning the case into a "media circus". "The entire speech was riddled with bogus facts and false accusations, not to mention relentless slander against the attorney general and the heads of the law enforcement system," ministry spokesman Moshe Cohen was quoted by the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth as saying.

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  • Guest 123
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    JERUSALEM, July 1, 2007 (AP) - A plea bargain that would allow Israel's former president to avoid rape charges and jail time has drawn a fierce public backlash, with protests in Tel Aviv and a Supreme Court appeal on Sunday that have put the deal in doubt.

    The plea bargain between prosecutors and Moshe Katsav, who stepped down as Israel's ceremonial leader on Sunday, would allow him to confess to lesser counts of sexual harassment and receive a suspended sentence.

    In January, Attorney General Meni Mazuz said he was planning to file rape charges that could carry a 20-year prison term. Now, Katsav's critics fear the deal will allow him to fade quietly away, insisting he signed the deal only to relieve the strain on his family, with the gravest charges buried.

    Four women who worked for Katsav charged that he repeatedly groped them, kissed them, exposed himself to them and - in two cases - raped them while he served as president and earlier, when he was tourism minister.

    Katsav has claimed he was the victim of a witch hunt. He stepped aside in January to fight the charges but refused to resign until the plea bargain forced him to do so, two weeks before his term was due to end anyway.

    Dropping the most serious charges infuriated women's rights activists and led to a hastily organized demonstration in central Tel Aviv on Saturday night which drew a surprisingly large crowd of around 20,000.

    On Sunday, three women's rights group filed separate appeals to the Supreme Court, which then ordered the plea bargain frozen for at least 24 hours.

    Sunday's columns in Israeli papers slammed the deal with near unanimity.

    A poll by the Dahaf Research Institute published Friday in the Yediot Ahronot daily showed that 73 percent thought justice was not served. The poll surveyed 503 people and had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

    The Israelis who flocked Saturday night to Tel Aviv's main square demanded that Katsav stand trial and called on Mazuz to resign.

    "We are asking to hear the evidence. We don't demand mercy, we demand justice,'' Yael Dayan, a former lawmaker and prominent women's rights advocate, said at the rally. "We are calling on the courts to have the courage not to approve the deal.''

    The Supreme Court might take the rare step of declaring the plea bargain unacceptable and sending it back for revision, said Noya Rimalt, an expert on criminal law and feminist legal theory at Haifa University.

    In announcing the plea bargain, Mazuz said one of his considerations was the reputation of the Israeli presidency and his desire to avoid a prolonged trial with painful headlines - a point Rimalt said could be legally invalid and might provide a motive for the court to strike down the deal.

    Even if the Supreme Court chooses to let the deal go ahead, a lower court that has to approve it could decide that the sentence is too light and impose a heavier one, Rimalt said.

    The public outcry might also play a role.

    "Judges are not supposed to be affected by such things, but of course they're human beings,'' Rimalt said.

    The outcry over Katzav's plea deal is evidence of a slow evolution in Israeli public opinion, once tolerant of sexual misbehavior by high-ranking public figures, said Tziona Koenig-Yair, executive director of the Israel Women's Network, one of the three groups behind the Supreme Court appeals.

    Israeli heroes like Moshe Dayan were reputedly notorious philanderers, an excess that the country's macho culture was willing to accept decades ago. But that changed with the conviction of Yitzhak Mordechai, a former defense minister, for sexual assault in 2001, and continued with the conviction of former Cabinet minister Haim Ramon for sexual misconduct earlier this year.

    "It's a change that has taken place over a decade or two, and especially in the last five years,'' Koenig-Yair said. "The public is tired of public officials who are supposed to represent them behaving in this way, and the Katsav case just crossed a line that people were not prepared to accept anymore.''

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  • Guest 123
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    JERUSALEM (AP) - Israeli President Moshe Katsav resigned Friday as part of a much-criticized plea bargain that dropped planned rape charges and the threat of jail time.

    His resignation - two weeks before his seven-year term was to expire - takes effect Sunday and clears the way for his indictment on lesser charges of indecent acts, sexual harassment and obstruction of justice. He will receive a suspended prison sentence and be required to pay damages to two of his four accusers, all former female employees.

    The plea deal Katsav signed Thursday was a dramatic reversal by Attorney General Meni Mazuz, who had announced in January that he planned to try the president on charges of rape and other sex crimes - counts that could have landed him in prison for 20 years.

    Katsav's accusers condemned the deal, as did women's rights groups and newspaper commentators. A public opinion poll by the Dahaf Research Institute published Friday in the Yediot Ahronot daily showed 69 percent of those surveyed opposed it, and 73 percent thought justice was not served.

    The poll surveyed 503 people and had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

    Claims that Katsav used his position as Israel's ceremonial head of state to force himself on women were the most serious allegations ever brought against an Israeli leader. The scandal intensified growing worries about misconduct by a growing list of officials including questionable business deals involving Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before he became prime minister.

    The deal, which dominated newspaper coverage on Friday, was widely seen as a victory for Katsav, who stepped aside from his duties in January to fight the rape allegations but did not quit.

    Parliament Speaker Dalia Itzik has served as acting president since January and will continue to do so until President-elect Shimon Peres is inaugurated next month.

    At a televised news conference Thursday, one of Katsav's accusers stood by her story that he raped her, calling him a "pervert'' and "serial sex offender'' who turned her into a sex slave.

    "I am pained by the attorney general's decision because it gives legitimacy to sex offenders,'' said the woman, whose image was electronically blurred and her identity concealed.

    One of Katsav's lawyers, Avigdor Feldman, said evidence did not back up the harsher charges that had been planned.

    "It was clear to me after delving into the investigatory material that this case would go up in smoke or yield something negligible, as indeed happened,'' Feldman wrote in a column in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper.

    Others saw things differently and called on Mazuz to resign, too.

    "There is no explanation for this scandalous plea bargain,'' commentator Sima Kadmon wrote in the same newspaper. "The bottom line of the Katsav affair is that the attorney general has to step down.''

    Rape crisis groups planned a demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday night to express outrage over the deal.

    Mazuz said some of the original allegations would have been difficult to prove in court, adding that the president's lawyers presented new evidence at a special hearing last month.

    The attorney general said he also took into consideration the damage a prolonged trial would have caused to "the national institution of the presidency and the image of the state of Israel.''

    Several lawmakers demanded that Katsav's retirement benefits be revoked. Katsav, 61, is entitled to an apartment, car, assistants and a $120,000 annual pension, the Haaretz newspaper reported.

    The law does not provide for a case of a convicted president, but several bills that would strip him of these benefits are to be submitted next week, Haaretz said.

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  • Guest 123
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    June 29, 2007 -- The Israeli president, Moshe Katsav, struck a surprise plea bargain with prosecutors yesterday under which he will resign and admit charges of sexual harassment in return for avoiding a prison term and much tougher rape charges.

    The deal, which was announced by the attorney general, Menachem Mazuz, in Jerusalem, brought swift condemnation from MPs and women's rights campaigners.

    It marked an extraordinary reversal for Mr Mazuz, who earlier this year had announced that he had sufficient evidence to charge the president with rape, abuse of power and several other sexual offences. At least four female employees had given evidence against Mr Katsav during a seven-month investigation.

    Mr Katsav, 61, will be formally charged at Jerusalem magistrates court next week and will admit to a series of indecent assaults against a woman who worked in the tourism ministry when he was minister in the late 1990s. He will also admit to sexual harassment of a woman who worked in the president's official residence, and to harassing a witness.

    The charges would have brought up to seven years in jail, but under the deal he will be given a suspended sentence and will have to pay an unspecified amount of compensation to his victims, as well as submitting his resignation.

    Yesterday Mr Mazuz sought to defend his decision. "When the president admits, it is not trivial," he said. "From the status of the State of Israel's number one citizen, the president has descended to a person guilty of a sex offence, with all the personal and public disgrace which will accompany him."

    He said it was Mr Katsav who had proposed the deal, which was finalised yesterday morning. Mr Mazuz also said some of the allegations would have been difficult to prove in court and might have damaged the "image of the State of Israel".

    The case first emerged in July last year when the president complained to the attorney general that he was being blackmailed by the woman he was later suspected of raping. But once the investigation began, the focus turned on the president himself and the Israeli press was filled with lurid accounts of the case. It was only one of several fraud and sex scandals that have shaken the Israeli government in the last year.

    Since Mr Katsav has now admitted several sexual offences, the deal brings into question his continued protestations of innocence in recent months. At a press conference in January he condemned the Israeli press for its "poisonous, horrible lies" and screamed at a reporter before insisting: "I did not commit any of the acts that are attributed to me."

    He stepped aside from his ceremonial duties but ignored calls to resign, which came even from the prime minister, Ehud Olmert. The Iranian-born president also implied the charges against him were motivated by racism against Israelis of Middle Eastern origin.

    The deal was criticised yesterday. "There is no public interest in reaching a plea bargain and reducing his sentence just because we're talking about the president and only because we're concerned about how we'll look to the world," said Kineret Barashi, the lawyer for one of the female victims. Zahava Gal-On, an MP and women's rights campaigner, said: "Victims of sex crimes will believe they do not have any shield."

    Women have long argued that they are given little protection against sexual harassment in important public offices.

    Miriam Schler, of the Tel Aviv Rape Crisis Centre, said the deal was a "travesty". "It gives a message to women who were raped and attacked or sexually assaulted by men in positions of power that it's better for them to sit at home and be quiet and not tell anyone about it because it's not worth it for them to actually file a complaint with the police," she said.

    Mr Katsav's seven-year term as president was formally due to end in July. His replacement, Shimon Peres, 83, has already been elected by the Israeli parliament. Mr Katsav defeated Mr Peres in a shock victory to take the presidency in 2000. Mr Peres declined to comment yesterday on the case.

    Mr Katsav will submit his resignation today and it will take effect 48 hours later, just before he formally admits the charges.

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  • Guest 123
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    JERUSALEM (AP) - President Moshe Katsav's lawyers made a last-ditch effort on Wednesday to stave off an indictment on rape and other sexual assault charges at a hearing before Israel's top prosecutor.

    Attorney General Meni Mazuz notified Katsav in January that he intends to press charges of rape, sexual assault and fraud based on allegations by four women who used to work for the president.

    Following standard practice in charges involving senior officials, Katsav was entitled to a hearing before an indictment is filed. The various crimes of rape, sexual assault, fraud and obstruction of justice could carry a total of 46 years in prison.

    Katsav, who denies all wrongdoing, has taken a leave of absence from the ceremonial presidency, but has refused to resign. He did not attend the hearing.

    "In our opinion there are no grounds to file an indictment against the president, on any one of the counts,'' Katsav's lawyer, Zion Amir, told Army Radio before the hearing began. "There is much testimony about a certain kind of conduct ... and our arguments expose its hollowness.''

    For decades, the 61-year-old Katsav had been considered a lackluster but affable lawmaker, Cabinet minister and president until allegations surfaced last year that he was a predatory boss who forced sexual favors from female employees.

    His four accusers worked with him either in the president's office or when he was tourism minister in the late 1990s. At least one has said he threatened to make sure she never got another job if she refused to have sex with him in his office.

    Katsav has said his accusers are seeking revenge because he fired them.

    In an hour-long televised tirade before he stepped aside in January, Katsav insisted he was innocent and accused the media and the police of conspiring against him.

    "I am not prepared to give in to blackmail, to lies,'' Katsav said at the time. "Truth is on my side.''

    Katsav's seven-year term is set to expire later this year.

    The accusations have infuriated Israelis, for whom the president is a moral beacon. No sitting Israeli president has ever been charged with a crime.

    But the Israeli public has grown accustomed to the spectacle of politicians mired in scandals. Former Justice Minister Haim Ramon is now performing community service after being convicted in a separate sexual misconduct case.

    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, fighting for his political life following the release of a highly critical probe of last summer's Lebanon war, is under investigation for his role in the sale of a government-controlled bank and separate cases involving real estate deals.

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  • Guest 123
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    The Knesset House Committee on Sunday extended President Moshe Katsav's temporary suspension until the end of his presidency on July 15.

    The president had asked the committee to extend his suspension "until further notice," but Knesset legal advisor Nurit Elstein determined that the suspension could only be expanded for a specific period of time.

    Katsav can, however, terminate the period of incapacitation at any time. In its decision, the committee criticized the president for not resigning.

    The extension was approved by an 11-4 margin, with all those who voted in favor being members of the governing coalition. Most of those opposed to the measure were opposition members, and said they were opposed to extending the temporary suspension in order to bring public pressure to bear on the president to resign.

    Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On called the decision embarrassing, while Likud faction chairman Gideon Sa'ar suggested adding the phrase "for the glory of the State of Israel", a reference to the Declaration of Independence.

    Coalition Chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki (Kadima) accused those who voted against the extension as taking advantage of the knowledge that the extension would be approved.

    Nontheless, Yitzhaki added his voice to the "protest over the fact that Katsav is still president. He is shaming himself and the presidency."

    Prosecution: Police did not use wiretapping in Katsav probe

    The state prosecution told the High Court of Justice Sunday that the police did not use wiretaps during the investigation into Katsav, despite claims by his defense team.

    The president's lawyers base the charges on an electronic chip discovered in a telephone device and on the prosecution's request that some evidence gathered in the investigation be declared privileged and not transmitted to the defense.

    But during the court hearing Sunday, the prosecution stressed that there was no wiretapping of Katsav, his family or his associates.

    In fact, the prosecution said, the only wiretapping used in the entire case was against A., one of Katsav's accusers who worked in the president's official residence, and who was suspected of attempting to blackmail the president before the probe developed into an investigation into the allegations against Katsav.

    Katsav defense attorneys Zion Amir, Avigdor Feldman and Avraham Lavi asked High Court on Sunday that it order all investigative material be handed over, including anything acquired through wiretaps.

    "If covert wiretaps were used, they broke all the rules," said a source on the Katsav defense team last week.

    According to the source, if Katsav himself was wiretapped then his immunity was violated, since a president discusses work matters on the telephone.

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  • Guest 123
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    A majority of Israelis think their President, Moshe Katsav, should resign following the decision to indict him for rape and sexual harassment.

    Polls in two leading newspapers yesterday suggested that between 66 and 71 per cent of Israelis think the 61-year-old head of state should resign.

    Instead, the President has asked the Knesset to allow him to stand aside temporarily to clear his name. That would allow him to avoid resignation or impeachment sought by some MPs.

    The crisis surrounding the Iranian-born Mr Katsav intensified after a dramatic television appearance on Wednesday night, in which he accused the media, police and the Attorney-General of conspiring to destroy him.

    A highly emotional Mr Katsav repeatedly diverged from his speech to attack his accusers, including the women who made complaints against him, claiming a "witch-hunt". In the course of an hour he banged the podium, shouted down questions and clashed repeatedly with a news anchor from Channel Two television.

    "Don't believe the libel, the defamation, the lies. There is only one truth … I am the target of one of the worst attacks in the history of the state of Israel," he said.

    As he spoke, his wife Gila, accompanied by several of her children, sat weeping quietly.

    Media reaction was overwhelmingly negative, with commentators pointing out that apart from blanket denials, Mr Katsav had said nothing to explain how 10 women — many of whom did not know each other — came to make complaints about predatory sexual behaviour.

    "The President's emotional tempest last night was genuine," wrote Nahum Barnea in Yedioth Ahronoth. "It wasn't an act: he truly feels that he is a victim. But his subjective view does not necessarily tell us much about what really happened."

    Writing in Ma'ariv, editor Amnon Danker suggested that the President was "sawing off the branch on which he is sitting. He cannot accuse the police of sabotage and of attempted putsch and, at the same time, embrace and vaunt it. He has to resign."

    Prime Minster Ehud Olmert, himself the subject of corruption investigations, said the President should give up his mainly ceremonial duties and move out of the residence. But he stopped short of telling him to resign.

    But several ministers called on Mr Katsav to resign and 30 MPs have signed a petition to begin impeachment proceedings. It is thought unlikely that they can muster the 75 per cent majority needed.

    Police began investigating Mr Katsav after he complained that a former employee was trying to blackmail him with allegations of sexual harassment.

    The investigation identified at least 10 former female employees during his tenure as tourism ministry and later as President who made allegations including sexual harassment, using his position improperly to gain sex, indecent acts and rape.

    This week, Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz said he had decided in principle to indict the President for raping one woman and for several charges in relation to four. Complaints by five others had exceeded the statute of limitations.

    If convicted, Mr Katsav could face 16 years in prison.

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  • Guest 123
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    Moshe Katsav, the President of Israel, is to be charged with rape and other sexual offences against four women who worked for him in his present office or in his previous job as minister of tourism. He also faces allegations of fraud, breach of trust, harassing a witness and obstruction of justice.

    The Attorney-General, Menachem Mazuz, notified Mr Katsav of this decision yesterday. He had, he said, concluded that there was enough prima facie evidence to indict. He decided not to proceed on complaints lodged by six other women. If convicted of rape, 61-year-old Mr Katsav, who has five children, could face a maximum of 16 years in prison.

    He has protested his innocence since police began investigating him last July. His lawyer, David Liba'i, said last night that he would continue to fight to clear his name, but he hinted that the President would suspend himself pending a trial. His critics said that was no longer adequate.

    The rape charge concerns a woman who worked for Mr Katsav at the tourism ministry in 1998-99. He is also accused of a series of offences against the original complainant, identified as "A", in the President's office: using his position of superiority to obtain sex, non-consensual sex, assault and sexual harassment. He is said to have assaulted and harassed two other members of his presidential staff.

    The Iranian-born President, like any Israeli public figure facing criminal proceedings, has a right to a hearing by the law officers before the indictment is confirmed, but Ran Cohen, a left-wing Meretz party MP, said last night: "He must resign immediately, now that he has humiliated the institution of the presidency and the public."

    Frances Raday, a law professor and women's rights campaigner, commented: "The decision to prosecute gives hope that women's dignity will be respected. But the fact that the President did not resign, and that the political system did not rise up with one voice and require him to do so, is a serious comment on the corrupt, patriarchal nature of Israeli politics."

    If Mr Katsav goes, his ceremonial duties would be taken over by Dalia Itzik, the Knesset Speaker, until a new election is held. If he refuses, parliament would have to impeach him, which requires a vote of 90 of the 120 legislators. His seven-year term, and with it his immunity, is due to expire in July.

    Israeli President faces calls to resign over rape charges

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  • Guest 123
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    As the investigation against President Moshe Katsav surrounding allegations of sexual assault nears completion, authorities plan to bring the president in Wednesday for a final round of questioning.

    Police and prosecution officials agreed to question the president once final time to fill in the missing gaps before presenting the indictment.

    It appears Katsav will not be charged with rape but will face charges for other sexual offenses, Haaretz learned Monday. Charges against Katsav will be brought to court no later than March, 2007; most probably the president will be charged with forced sexual assault and non-consensual sexual intercourse.

    The Justice Ministry is attempting to expedite work on the case so Katsav's defense attorneys will have two to three months to prepare for the hearing.

    If there are no unforeseen delays, the work of officials at the Jerusalem District Attorney's Office and the Attorney General's Office will be completed within a month. At that point, in early December, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz is expected to announce his decision, in principle, to press charges against Katsav.

    No decision on the indictment will be made at the Justice Ministry before the High Court of Justice deliberations (scheduled for November 27) regarding a petition calling for Katsav to step down are completed.

    Following the deliberations at the High Court, the investigation material will be given to Katsav's defense attorneys, Professor David Libai and attorney Zion Amir, so they can prepare for the hearing. The amount of time they will be granted for preparing their position will not exceed three months, and therefore the hearing will be conducted in late February or early March.

    Justice Ministry sources denied rumors that Katsav's defense team would be granted up to six months to prepare.

    In less than 10 days from the hearing, a final decision on pressing charges against the president will be made no later than March, 2007.

    Unlike previous estimates, the timetable above indicates Mazuz will announce his final decision on pressing charges early in 2007 and not close to July, when Katsav's term in office comes to an end.

    This suggests Katsav will not be able to avoid stepping down: A decision to press charges closer to July would have made this step redundant.

    The president has said that if a final decision is made to press charges against him, he will resign. However, sources at the Justice Ministry say Katsav will step down, either of his own volition or by a Knesset decision, at an earlier stage than his declaration suggests.

    Katsav is considering asking the Knesset to allow him to step down temporarily if Mazuz decides in principle to press charges against him. However, Katsav reportedly does not intend to resign his post until a final decision is made - after the hearing.

    Meanwhile, the State Prosecutor's Office has decided to delay some of the final interviews in the investigation, including the final questioning of Katsav, in the hope these can be carried out once Katsav steps down from his post.

    The idea is to create the necessary conditions for employees in the President's Office to offer uninhibited evidence regarding allegations that Katsav tampered with witnesses and the investigation. If there is no change in the status of Katsav in the coming weeks, the final interviews will be carried out anyway.

    Legal experts believe Mazuz will decide to press charges against Katsav, even though the hearing can, in theory, alter the attorney general's view.

    The Jerusalem District Attorney's Office is preparing various versions of an indictment. Mazuz is relying on the police recommendations he received last month, which say Katsav should be indicted, primarily for sexual offenses.

    Katsav to undergo final round of questioning in sex assault probe

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  • Guest 123
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    Israel's attorney general told the supreme court yesterday that President Moshe Katsav should step down amid a criminal investigation into rape and sexual assault allegations.

    In a statement to the court, Menachem Mazuz said the president should "suspend" himself from office while the investigation continued. Police have already said they have enough evidence to charge Mr Katsav with rape and sexual assault as well as fraud, illegal wiretapping, bribery and obstruction of justice.

    Mr Mazuz is now studying whether or not to charge the president and if so what charges he should face.

    It could be several weeks before the attorney general makes a decision.

    Mr Katsav denies all the charges.

    Israeli president told: step down

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  • Guest 123
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    On a smooth, trimmed lawn, Israel's tuneful police band entertained the thousands of visitors who trooped though the President's residence in Jerusalem during a recent open day. But few of the onlookers missed the irony that President Moshe Katsav could face a less festive visit by the police if the country's attorney-general decides to indict him on charges of rape, sexual harassment, illegal wiretapping and fraud.

    For his supporters who came to shake the President's hand, it was a political witch hunt. But for others outside the President's residence, such as Naomi Schneidermann from the Association of Rape crisis centres in Israel who came to call for his resignation, it was yet another shameful episode involving the country's leadership: 'I think this affair has done terrible damage not only to the particular office of President but also in the message we are sending to our citizens.'

    For months police have been investigating Israel's head of state following revelations that a woman employee at the presidential office alleged that he had raped her. A string of other women came forward with similar allegations, all of which Katsav has strenuously denied.

    Katsav is the most recent and most senior figure to have been caught up in a swath of scandals that have cut through Israeli public life. On a single day last week, two former justice ministers began separate trials. Chaim Ramon, who served until recently in the current government, is charged with forcibly kissing a young female soldier, and his predecessor, Tzachi Hanegbi, is also in court following allegations of making illegal political appointments.

    Public disgust at the country's leaders, both political and military, has reached a peak following the recent war in Lebanon, which many Israelis believe was mismanaged. Many feel that there is a link between the succession of scandals involving sex, money and fraud and the war. Now Israelis are angrily questioning what has gone wrong. Jerusalem has become a focal point for their despair and frustration. There is a palpable sense of division between the people, the politicians and the generals.

    Outside the heavily protected Prime Minister's office, by a busy junction, is a tent made of banners calling on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, along with his Defence Minister and Army Chief of Staff, to resign. Activists sitting in plastic chairs in the sun wear T-shirts emblazoned with the words: 'A people of heroes - A government of cowards.' Ari Shavit, a columnist for the liberal Haaretz newspaper, has described 'a tremendous gap [between] the worst of Israeli society at the very top and the energy, creativity and resilience of ordinary Israelis'.

    Israel's politicians and generals were once seen as puritanical figures devoted to the national good. David Ben Gurion the nation's revered first Prime Minister, chose to retire to a kibbutz in the desert. Today many Israelis contrast that with recent former leaders who appear to prefer the comfort of the lecture tour circuit and lucrative consultancies.

    In the early years of the Jewish state, collectivism and aestheticism were embraced by the socialist establishment that ruled the country. But in the past 20 years Israel has become wealthier and more individualistic. Israelis have long desired normality in their personal lives as well as their politics.

    Many now believe that the perceived weakness of their leadership may be a symptom of that change. Dan Halutz, the Army Chief of Staff, was reported to have sold his shares portfolio on the first day of the Lebanon war. While he did nothing illegal, his actions caused an outcry, not simply because he was involved in looking after his personal finances at a time of national crisis but also because it was thought that a senior military figure should not have been concerned in any way with personal enrichment.

    Israelis from opposite ends of the political spectrum find themselves united in their shared sense of disillusionment. At a candlelit rally last week in central Jerusalem left-wingers bearing the banners of the anti-occupation Meretz organisation stood alongside members of Bnei Akiva, a religious youth organisation which strongly supports the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

    The rally had been called to demonstrate for a state inquiry into the conduct of the war. But for many it was more about expressing dissatisfaction with the direction of the country as a whole. 'We want our children to grow up and be proud of what's happening and to be part of something positive, and I don't feel that at the moment,' said Helen Lowenstein, who works in education. One of her three children is in the army and she said that she had grown used to the corruption of the politicians but had come to the rally because 'now it's even entered the army'.

    Yet there are those who believe that the leadership crisis may provide an opportunity for change. Shavit believes 'there is a reasonable chance for change for the better' as ordinary people who have been put off politics now become involved to improve matters.

    The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, an organisation with 20,000 members, believes that the public may now be receptive to its message of constitutional reform.

    Others perceive a growing fatigue within Israeli society. A well-known sociologist in Jerusalem describes the situation as grim, but adds that he believes in 'the politics of hope'.

    For ordinary Israelis this appears to be an unusual time. They feel as though they have been cast adrift from their leaders. One man demonstrating outside the President's residence in Jerusalem said he has come 'because I am pained and lonely because of the government that forgot me'.

    The question is whether his actions, and those of others, will be enough to heal the breach between the leaders and the people of Israel.

    Weary Israel loses faith in its leaders

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