Israel's attorney general says there is sufficient evidence to indict President Moshe Katsav on charges of rape and sexual harassment. The president's lawyer expects opinion to change after a scheduled hearing. But politicians from across the spectrum are urging the president to step down now.
The charges of rape and sexual harassment relate to the claims of four women who worked for President Katzav during his term as president or before that ,when he was a cabinet minister. After months of investigation, the attorney general today recommended that Katzav also be indicted on charges of obstruction of justice, fraud and breach of trust.
Katzav has denied all charges. His attorney, David Libai', told reporters that the president had reacted to news of the impending indictment with "great regret," but that he was certain that the presentation of further evidence would persuade the attorney general to change his mind. Justice Ministry officials say a final draft of the indictment will be presented after a hearing within the next three months.
The presidency is a mostly ceremonial position in Israel. Katzav's term began in 2001 and is due to end in July. According to Israeli law, a president can only be put on trial if he resigns or is impeached by the Knesset. His lawyer has said in the past that if and when an indictment is submitted, Katzav would resign. But he has since said that if he is indicted, he would suspend himself from duty.
Several Israeli politicians today called on Katzav to step down immediately. Ran Cohen of the left-wing Meretz party said that Katsav has humiliated the institution of the presidency. Zevulun Orlev, from the right wing National Religious Party, said the recommendation for indictment marked a sad day for the state and its citizens.
Katzav has called a press conference for tomorrow.