(photo credit: AP [file])
President Moshe Katsav is due to hold a press conference on Wednesday, 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.
Background: The president's options
Timeline: The evolution of a presidential indictment
Reactions: MK Yahimovitch hails decision
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 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.
The gravest charges being considered by Mazuz, including rape and committing an indecent act without the consent of the victim, pertain to "Aleph," who worked in the Ministry of Tourism in 1998 and 1999, when Katsav was minister. According to the wording of the rape charge, Katsav allegedly had intercourse "without [the woman's] freely given consent and in consequence of the use of force, the infliction of bodily suffering, the use of other means of compulsion or the threat of any of these."
The alleged rape victim is the second woman in the case who has been identified as "Aleph." She is not the woman, also identified as Aleph, who first brought allegations of sexual misconduct to the police and who was accused by Katsav of trying to blackmail him.
The second charge involves this Aleph, who worked at Beit Hanassi in 2003 and 2004. According to Mazuz, Katsav is suspected of having forbidden intercourse with Aleph's consent, committing an indecent act without consent by exploiting his authority in employment, and sexual harassment.
The third and fourth charges involve two other women who worked at Beit Hanassi. Katsav is accused of committing an indecent act by exploiting his authority in employment and sexual harassment against each of them.
Regarding the allegations he gave state-funded gifts to private individuals, Katsav faces charges of fraud, breach of faith, and obtaining something by deceit. Regarding the charges of harassing a witness and obstructing justice, the maximum sentence is three years in jail.
Mazuz decided to prosecute Katsav on most of the charges recommended by Lt.-Cmdr. Yoav Segelovich on October 15, when the police investigation team he led submitted its finding to the Justice Ministry.
Despite the original recommendation, however, Katsav will not face rape charges in the case of the Aleph who he claims was blackmailing him.
Mazuz decided not to indict Katsav on two other allegations regarding which the police had recommended pressing charges. One involved suspicions that Katsav had allowed businessmen friends access to classified requests for pardons from convicted prisoners and that he had given priority to these requests as a favor to these friends. The other involved allegations that he eavesdropped on the telephone conversations of office employees.
Mazuz also decided, contrary to the police recommendation, to close the file regarding allegations the president had been involved in sexual misconduct toward a fifth woman.