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Israel President faces rape charge
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October 16, 2006 16:16 IST
Reeling from police recommendations that he be charged with a variety of sexual-related offences, Israeli President Moshe Katsav succumbed to pressure and announced Monday that he would not attend the formal opening of the Knesset's winter session later in the day.

Some legislators had said earlier they would boycott the session if Katsav attended, and others said they would refuse to rise, as a sign of respect, when the president entered the plenum.

Katsav had originally said he would attend the session, but would not address parliament. However, on Monday morning, Katsav's brother said the president would not be present at the opening session.

Katsav's decision comes after police, capping a weeks-long investigation, recommended Sunday that he be charged with indecent acts using force, indecent acts without consent, sexual harassment crimes, and possibly rape, in that he used his authority to force female employees to have sex with him.

The police investigators, who met with the State Prosecutor's Office late Sunday, also said enough evidence existed to prove that Katsav had committed grand larceny and fraud and breach of faith, and violated the law prohibiting wiretapping.

Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz now has to decide whether to accept the police recommendation and indict Katsav.

Katsav, 60, has vehemently denied the charges, and has refused to step down for the duration of the investigation and possible trial.

The investigation began in late August, when police raided the president's residence, confiscated computers and documents and questioned Katsav, after former employees filed complaints about sexual harassment by their employer.

Since then, other women have followed suit and the number of complainants has risen to as many as 10.

The Iranian-born Katsav, whose duties are primarily ceremonial, has said that the first accuser, a former secretary identified only as "A", tried to blackmail him.

A conversation taped on July 2 between A and the president leaked to the media unequivocally backed his claim.

The president, whose seven-year term is due to end in August 2007, also insists that the other complainants are trying to get back at him for refusing to rehire them. (DPA)



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