Katsav asks to extend his suspension

April 18, 2007 09:03

Knesset committee to discuss issue next week before Independence Day.

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President Moshe Katsav submitted his request to the Knesset on Wednesday to extend his temporary suspension, defusing public concern he would officiate at Independence Day celebrations. The Knesset House Committee will convene on Sunday to discuss the matter. Committee Chairwoman Ruhama Avraham said the date was chosen "so the president will not actively serve as president with such a cloud of suspicions hanging over him." The Knesset approved Katsav's request for a three-month suspension on January 25, two days after Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz announced he intended to indict him - conditional on the results of a hearing - on charges of sexual crimes involving four women, giving private gifts paid for out of public funds, harassing a witness and obstructing justice. According to the Basic Law: President, the Knesset House Committee may approve the president's request to temporarily suspend himself from office for a period of up to three months. The suspension automatically expires unless the committee agrees to extend it for a maximum of three more months. Legal experts are divided over how to interpret the law, whether the president must ask the committee to extend his suspension or whether the committee can do so at its own initiative. Amir's announcement eliminates the need to resolve the dispute in the current case. On May 2, Mazuz will hold a hearing for Katsav and his lawyers, Amir and Avigdor Feldman. The High Court of Justice on Sunday is due to hold its first hearing of a petition filed in March by the lawyers. It calls for the state to hand over additional material collected by the police during Katsav's investigation and the opinions of two senior government attorneys who reportedly disagreed with Mazuz about what charges should be included in the draft indictment. When Mazuz first announced he would indict Katsav pending a hearing, the indictment included one charge of rape against the president. Since then, another rape charge has been added in connection with the same woman, known as "the second A." Katsav has said he would resign from office if the attorney-general decided, after the hearing, to file the indictment against him. Mazuz is likely to decide whether or not to do so within a few weeks of the May 2 hearing.

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