[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Monday, 16 October 2006, 08:55 GMT 09:55 UK
Katsav avoids parliament opening
Israeli President Moshe Katsav
Mr Katsav has said he was the victim of "public lynching"
Israel's President Moshe Katsav has decided not to attend the opening of parliament, according to media reports.

The news comes just hours after police recommended that he face charges for rape and wire-tapping.

A number of deputies had threatened to walk out of the Knesset if he attended.

Mr Katsav denies claims that he forced two female employees to have sex with him, along with all other allegations which police have been investigating.

A formal decision on whether to prosecute him will be made by the Attorney General Menachem Mazuz.

We have no doubt of his innocence, we know he is being framed and he is being blamed of things that did not happen
Lior Katsav, president's brother

Earlier, Israel's Education Minister Yuli Tamir told the BBC that she felt Mr Katsav would be wrong to attend the opening of the Knesset's winter session:

"He should avoid the embarrassment both to himself and to the institute of the presidency. He has done enough to embarrass us all and that is the right time for him, if not to resign then, to decide not to participate in public meetings anymore."

Mr Katsav's brother, Lior, told Israel Army radio that the president had decided to stay away to protect the dignity of the Knesset.

"We have no doubt of his innocence. We know he is being framed and he is being blamed of things that did not happen," Lior Katsav added.

Impeachment threat

The post of president, to which Mr Katsav was elected for a seven-year term in 2000, is largely ceremonial.

The 61-year-old father-of-five has rejected calls that he quit, but the BBC's Richard Miron in Jerusalem says that could change if he is indicted.

As president, Mr Katsav is immune from prosecution, should the attorney general decide to prosecute him.

However, parliamentarians are likely to seek to impeach him, lifting that immunity, if they feel that he has acted inappropriately.

There is sufficient evidence indicating that in several cases... the president carried out acts of rape, forced sexual acts, sexual acts without consent and sexual harassment
Israeli police statement

The allegations against the president have shaken the Israeli political establishment, causing dismay and disillusionment among an already jaded Israeli public, our correspondent says.

There is a widespread sense of dissatisfaction, our correspondent says, following a swathe of scandals and the performance of Israel's leaders during the recent war in Lebanon.

Although in the past a previous president and several prime ministers were embroiled in financial scandals and a former defence minister was convicted of sexual harassment, the charges Mr Katsav faces would be the most serious ever to be brought against a serving Israeli politician.

Presidential pardons

Israeli media reports have said that the case against Mr Katsav is based on complaints from up to 10 women.

Police searched the president's home in August after allegations of sexual harassment emerged, and have questioned him repeatedly and seized documents during the investigation.

Following that investigation police issued a statement on Sunday saying: "There is sufficient evidence indicating that in several cases... the president carried out acts of rape, forced sexual acts, sexual acts without consent and sexual harassment."

Mr Katsav has said he is the victim of a "public lynching without trial or investigation".

Mr Katsav is a veteran member of the right-wing Likud party, serving as transport minister in the late 1980s and in 1996 as minister of tourism and deputy prime minister.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
How the allegations have gripped Israel



SEE ALSO
Israeli press turns on Katsav
16 Oct 06 |  Middle East
Profile: Israeli President Katsav
16 Oct 06 |  Middle East
Police back Katsav rape charges
16 Oct 06 |  Middle East
Katsav avoids ceremonial duties
13 Sep 06 |  Middle East
Israel president's home searched
22 Aug 06 |  Middle East

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific