Israeli president advised to step down

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Incumbent Israeli President Moshe Katsav has been advised by his attorney-general, Menachem Mazuz, to step down from his presidential duties and to hand over control of the country whilst police investigate allegations that he raped and sexually molested several female employees. The President denies the allegations.

Mazuz has issued the advisory to the president after police recommended filing charges of rape, sexual assault and fraud against the President after finding evidence to support the charges.

The advisory asks the President to "consider suspending himself from duty by asking parliament to declare him temporarily incapacitated". Mazuz also commented that a trial would require Katsav to stand down pending a verdict. The justice ministry said " would be against procedure and propriety for the president to continue in office," after an indictment had been brought against him.

Katsav, however, has refused to give up his leadership and has said that he is innocent of any and all allegations against him.

"The president reiterates and emphasizes that he is a victim to a low plot spun against him and sooner or later it will be proven that the allegations against him are false stories and a lie, and the truth will be brought to light," said a statement released by Katsav's office.

"The president trusts his righteousness and innocence totally. The authorities must wait until the end of the investigation and for the attorney-general's final stand," added the statement.

The justice ministry is currently compiling the evidence against Katsav and deciding whether it warrants a prosecution. If the case is pursued, it would be the first prosecution of an incumbent Israeli president on felony charges. The president's office has declined to comment.