Rape Charge Advised Vs. Israel President

The Associated Press
Sunday, October 15, 2006; 5:01 PM

JERUSALEM -- Police recommended 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 Mazuz.

He does not have a deadline for making his decision and is expected to take several weeks to study the evidence.

Katsav has denied all wrongdoing. In a statement released by his office, his lawyer, Zion Amir, said police are not authorized to bring charges, noting that in the past, when police have recommended putting senior officials on trial, the attorney general has dismissed most of the cases.

Katsav asserted in a recent Israel radio interview that the complaints against him were staged by political enemies.

A police statement issued Sunday said the complaints were filed by "women who worked under his (Katsav's) authority." It said there was evidence he committed crimes of "rape, aggravated sexual assault, indecent acts without permission and offenses under the law to prevent sexual harassment."

The statement also said police found basis for charges of illegal wiretapping, and fraud and malfeasance in office in the case of pardons granted by the president.

Investigations into allegations of disrupting a police investigation and harassing a witness were still in progress, police said.

The investigation began earlier this year after a former employee alleged Katsav forced her to have sex under the threat of dismissal. Police repeatedly questioned Katsav at his official residence and seized personal documents.

Israel Radio and Channel 2 TV have said the case against Katsav is 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 has run out, the reports said.

If indicted, Katsav would 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.

© 2006 The Associated Press