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Israel's Former Justice Minister Convicted of Sexual Misconduct


Israel's former Justice Minister has been convicted of indecent acts for kissing a young female soldier against her will. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem, it is the second case to involve a high public official in sexual misconduct charges and the case is likely to result in a major cabinet shake-up.

Haim Ramon, Israel's former justice minister, was found guilty by a three-judge panel of indecent acts. He was convicted of forcibly kissing a young female soldier just after the two posed for a picture in the offices of the defense ministry last July 12, the day that Israel's war with Hezbollah militants in Lebanon began.

Ramon, a member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima Party, resigned shortly after the incident. He repeatedly claimed the kiss was consensual and following the verdict he said he will appeal.

If his appeal fails, Ramon could face up to three years in prison. The case is expected to result in a major re-organization of Mr. Olmert's cabinet. The prime minister's spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, says now that Ramon will not be re-joining the government there will be a cabinet change.

"The prime minister stated before Ramon was put on trial that he would keep one of the ministerial portfolios open for him," she said. "He [Ramon] was the Justice Minister. The prime minister also stated that as soon as this trial was over, as it is today, that he would not re-shuffle, but that he would put permanent ministers in all of the portfolios."

Israel's government has been under fire recently for its policies during last summer's war with Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. Mr. Olmert himself is being investigated for his role in the privatization of one of Israel's largest banks when he was finance minister in 2005.

Last week, Israelis watched as their country's president, Moshe Katsav, Israel's ceremonial head of state, emotionally proclaimed his innocence of rape and abuse of power charges in a nationally televised address to the nation. Israel's attorney general says he has the evidence to bring charges against Mr. Katsav, and it was reported Mr. Katsav has vacated the official residence of Israel's president after being given a parliamentary leave of absence.

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