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Israel's President to Be Indicted on Rape Charges


Israel's attorney general says he plans to indict President Moshe Katsav, Israel's ceremonial head of state, on charges of rape and abuse of power. VOA's Jim Teeple has details from our Jerusalem bureau.

Israel's attorney general, Meni Mazus, says he has notified President Katsav that he will be indicted on charges of rape and other crimes against female employees of the president's office. Israeli legal procedures allow the president one opportunity to present his case at a hearing before a formal indictment is issued.

The charges, some of the most serious ever faced by an Israeli politician, stem from complaints made by at least four women who worked for Mr. Katsav. Police say the charges are based on interviews with at least 10 women.

Israel's attorney general says he has collected enough evidence to indict the president on other charges - such as obstruction of justice and receiving illegal gifts.

Shelly Yachimovich, a Labor Party member of Israel's parliament or Knesset, told Israel's Channel Eleven news the President should step down immediately.

Yachimovich says if President Katsav does not immediately resign he should be impeached.

Mr. Katsav, who is a member of the right-of-center Likud Party, enjoys presidential immunity from prosecution and can only be tried in criminal court if he resigns, is impeached, or after his term ends, which will happen later this year.

He has vigorously denied the charges, saying he is innocent and is being framed for things that never happened. Family members say he is being blackmailed by a former female employee who worked in the president's office.

Mr. Katsav began his seven-year term as Israel's president in 2000, replacing Ezer Weizman who had resigned just before his term ended. Weizman was implicated, but never charged, in a case where he was alleged to have received more than $300,000 in gifts from a wealthy French businessman.

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