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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2007, 17:18 GMT
Israel's Katsav faces rape charge
Israeli President Moshe Katsav
Katsav's lawyers have said he will resign if charged
Israel's ministry of justice says it plans to charge the country's largely ceremonial head of state, Moshe Katsav, with rape and abuse of power.

Formal charges against him can be made only after a hearing at which he will be allowed to present his case.

Mr Katsav denies allegations of rape and sexual misconduct made by several female employees in recent months.

The recommendation to indict him comes amid a flurry of corruption allegations against top-level Israeli politicians.

Mr Katsav's lawyers said he was innocent and charges would be dropped after the attorney general heard Mr Katsav's side of the story.

"The president believes that everyone will see that he is the victim of false charges," David Libai said, adding that the president would hold a news conference on Wednesday.

The president enjoys immunity, but he can be impeached or prosecuted after he leaves office.

Mr Katsav's seven-year term ends this year, but his lawyers have previously indicated he might resign if he was indicted.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz's office issued a statement saying there was enough evidence to support an indictment against Mr Katsav on charges of rape, harassment, abuse of power and obstruction of justice, among other crimes.

Dignity of office

Iranian-born Mr Katsav, 60, was a journalist before standing for parliament as a candidate for the right-wing Likud party in 1977.

He acted as power broker within the party and rose to ministerial positions.

The office is invested with great dignity and prestige in the Israeli political system, but powers are limited. They include pardoning prisoners.

Several MPs have called on Mr Katsav to resign immediately to avoid bringing the office into disrepute.

He was the first member of a right-wing political party to become Israeli president, beating off the challenge of Labour veteran Shimon Peres in 2000.

Mr Katsav's predecessor, Ezer Weizman, left office early in controversial circumstances after the attorney general found he had accepted improper gifts. He was never charged with any crime.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The allegations against Mr Katsav



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23 Jan 07 |  Middle East



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