(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
After his fifth interrogation session on Wednesday, President Moshe Katsav found himself facing a list of new allegations that included fraud, breach of trust, and wiretapping.
Katsav, currently under investigation for the alleged sexual harassment of a former Beit Hanassi employee, was questioned at his Jerusalem office for over five hours, during which time police brought up the new allegations.
Police had already questioned two senior employees from the president's office on Tuesday on suspicion of involvement in some of the alleged transgressions.
Regarding the sexual harassment charges, police have so far gathered testimonies from seven women who worked under Katsav at different times in his political career.
Earlier Wednesday, the Knesset House Committee approved Katsav's request to take a 16-hour leave of absence to avoid the swearing in of Dorit Beinisch as Supreme Court president.
While the Knesset approved the request with a vote of 12 in favor, 6 against, and 3 abstaining, there was surprising criticism voiced against Katsav by members of his own party.
Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar said that Katsav's behavior, and specifically the request for a leave of absence, showed his lack of respect for the Knesset and its committees. Sa'ar abstained from the vote.
Head of the Knesset Constitution and Law Committee, Kadima MK Menahem Ben-Sasson, said that Katsav's request and behavior were a corruption of the law.
The most vocal criticism came from Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On and Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich, whose latter made waves last week after declaring that she believed Katsav's accuser.
Arguments broke out between the two female MKs and NRP MK Yitzhak Galanti, who yelled several times during the meeting that Katsav was innocent until proven guilty, and that the MKs needed to stop acting as though he were a serial rapist.
On Tuesday night, only three MKs, Zehava Gal-On (Meretz), Yoram Marciano (Labor), and Esterina Tartman (Israel Beiteinu) were planning to vote against the measure. The 17 other committee members have indicated that they will approve the leave.
Legal representatives for the president had originally requested a two-hour leave, but were forced to change that request after MKs said they would only consider voting for the measure if it were a longer time period.
Katsav has come under harsh criticism for refusing to step down from office while police investigate several accusations of rape and sexual harassment against him.
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