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Friday, June 29, 2007

President Katsav cops a plea on rape charges

Ex-President Moshe Katsav pleaded guilty to sexual harassment to avoid more serious charges. He can't really step down as president, because everyone except Katsav now considers Shimon Peres to be president. Katsav was elected president on the votes of ultraorthodox party members who had promised to vote for Peres. They were not happy over Peres's dovish stance and opposition to religious coercion.
By Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times  |  June 29, 2007
JERUSALEM -- Moshe Katsav was expected to step down as Israel's president after agreeing yesterday to plead guilty to sexual harassment to avoid more serious charges that he raped female staffers.
Under the plea agreement announced by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, Katsav, 61, will avoid jail time, raising an outcry among women's rights activists who saw the case as an important test of Israel's commitment to stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace.
The presidency in Israel is largely a ceremonial position; political power rests with the prime minister.
The Katsav case was among a series of scandals that have eroded Israelis' confidence in their leaders. Justice Minister Haim Ramon quit after being accused of forcibly kissing a female soldier and later was convicted of an indecent act. Corruption allegations also have swirled around top officials, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The president faced possible indictment on charges that he raped and sexually harassed female subordinates while serving as president and earlier as tourism minister. In January, Mazuz warned Katsav that authorities had enough evidence to indict on allegations involving four women, but the attorney general had yet to issue formal charges.
Katsav agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges, including sexual harassment, indecent acts, and harassment of a witness, Mazuz said yesterday. Katsav will pay damages, but prison time was suspended under the deal, which requires court approval. The court is expected to act next week


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