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Justice Minister Haim Ramon informed Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik on Sunday that he would not ask the Knesset to invoke his parliamentary immunity, thus paving the way for the state to try him in Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on a charge of committing an indecent act on a person without her consent.
The charge carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Ramon handed in his letter of resignation from the government on Sunday. He has asked Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz to try to see to it that his trial begins as quickly as possible and is held without interruption so that if he is acquitted, he can return to his portfolio in as short a time as possible.
On Sunday, Mazuz also published a copy of the indictment against Ramon after hearing from the justice minister on Friday that he had waived his right to a hearing before him. Last week, Mazuz informed Ramon, Itzik and Knesset House Committee Chairwoman Ruhama Avraham that he was considering indicting the justice minister conditional on the outcome of a hearing that he was offering him.
Ramon's decision to leave office as quickly as possible has saved the government from profound embarrassment. As justice minister, he was the only one who could convene a meeting of the Judges Selection Committee. But after news of the investigation against Ramon was initially published, Mazuz informed him that he could not fulfill many of his duties, including participating in the process of selecting judges.
Normally, this would have meant that there would have been a delay in filling four or five vacancies on the Supreme Court bench. But that shortage has been felt for many months and would simply go on even longer.
More serious, however, is the fact that Supreme Court Justice Aharon Barak is due to retire on September 14. According to the government gazette, a date has already been set for a meeting of the committee to appoint Justice Dorit Beinisch as his successor. However, had Ramon decided to fight for his immunity and remained in his ministerial post, it is not clear how the September 7 meeting could have taken place, since Ramon would still have been in office but could not summon it. Thus there could have been an unprecedented situation in which there was no Supreme Court president after September 14.
Ramon's letter of resignation from the government will come into effect 48 hours after he submitted it to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. By that time, Olmert will have decided who will replace Ramon until his fate is sealed in court.
According to the indictment, the incident involved a 21-year-old soldier working in the Prime Minister's Office in Tel Aviv. On July 12, the day eight soldiers were killed and two taken hostage by Hizbullah, Ramon arrived at the office in the context of his cabinet responsibilities. The soldier, who was about to be demobilized and was celebrating her last day of work, asked him to take a picture with her. She went to get a camera while Ramon walked into an adjacent room which was empty. She asked another soldier in the office to take their picture. He took two photos of them embracing, one for her and one for him.
According to the indictment, after the photographer left the room, she released her arms and turned to leave the room. However, Ramon held onto her with one arm and brought her close to him. With the fingers of his other hand, he seized her cheek, brought his head towards her and kissed her on the lips, while inserting his tongue into her mouth. This was done without her consent, and she left the room immediately afterwards.
The indictment includes the name of 16 witnesses.