Katsav requests temporary suspension
President to address the nation Wednesday evening; Aleph's lawyer calls allegations that A. worked as a prostitute "nonsense."
By DAN IZENBERG, SHEERA CLAIRE FRENKEL, JPOST STAFF
January 24, 2007 10:16
3 minute read.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
President Moshe Katsav had declared Wednesday afternoon his intention to suspend himself temporarily in light of the charges of the impending rape and sexual harassment charges he faces.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Menahem Mazuz told Katsav in a letter that he would indict him on charges of sexual crimes against four women, including one case of rape, pending the outcome of a hearing.
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There was no time span set in the letter, she added, and it would be up to the MKs themselves to decide upon how long to suspend Katsav.
The Knesset House Committee is to convene tomorrow morning to consider Katsav's situation and discuss the requests of 30 MKs to begin the process of removing him from office.
Earlier, Katsav also announced his intent in a letter to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik.
Earlier Wednesday Justice Minister Tzipi Livni issued a statement calling for Katsav to resign.
While Katsav is innocent until proven guilty, "he should not be waging the battle to prove his innocence from the president's office," Livni said in a statement.
"Following the impending charges [of rape] against the president, it would be appropriate for him to leave the presidency," Livni said.
Meanwhile, Amnon Shomron, who is a friend of Katsav's, claimed Wednesday in an interview with Army Radio that he had evidence that "Aleph" had been a prostitute in the past.
Aleph's lawyer Kinneret Barashi immediately lashed out at Shomron, also a lawyer by profession, and said she would file a complaint for slander. "I will sue him over the nonsense he said during the broadcast. I am simply shocked - these are the president's friends.
"He doesn't know this girl. She passed her security clearance in two days. A bureau manager simply cannot undergo a security check without dubious things such as this being uncovered. I believe that the system that vets civil servants would discover a dubious past if it existed."
Shomron's claim also raised the ire of Meretz Mk Zehava Gal-On who said she would demand that Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz open a criminal investigation into Shomron for violating the right to privacy.
Katsav is due to hold a press conference on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., where he is expected to announce that he will temporarily suspend himself until Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz makes a final decision on whether to indict him.
On Tuesday, Mazuz told Katsav in a letter that he would indict him on charges of sexual crimes against four women, including one case of rape, pending the outcome of a hearing.
Mazuz added that he also planned to charge the president for giving silver cups, paid for with public funds, as gifts on private occasions, harassing a witness and obstructing justice, also conditional on the results of the hearing.
The maximum sentence for rape is 16 years in prison.
Katsav's lawyer, Zion Amir, told Israel Radio Tuesday it was "too early to mourn the passing of the president," and that Mazuz had written in his letter that he was "considering" indicting the president, not that he had decided to indict him.
At a press conference later in Tel Aviv, Amir and Katsav's other lawyer, David Liba'i, said they hoped to convince Mazuz at the hearing to close the case.
Amir and Liba'i will now, for the first time, be able to see the evidence gathered by the state against their client. The hearing will likely not take place for several months, to give the lawyers time to study the material. Katsav's seven-year term in office officially expires in July.
The lawyers did not say whether Katsav would suspend himself in the meantime. However, during a High Court of Justice hearing on November 27, on a petition demanding that Katsav suspend himself immediately, his lawyers told the court he would do so should Mazuz decide to indict him pending a hearing. Then, the lawyers also promised the court that should Mazuz make a final decision to indict him, Katsav would immediately resign and stand trial.
Dozens of MKs from the Left and the Right demanded that Katsav resign immediately. If enough MKs back the demand, the Knesset has the power to fire him.