Knesset awaits embattled Katsav

President Katsav is to open Israel's parliament despite the threat of rape charges and of a walkout by MPs.

Knesset awaits embattled Katsav
Israel's President Moshe Katsav is due to open a new session of parliament, just hours after police recommended he face charges for rape and wire-tapping.

A number of deputies have threatened to walk out of the Knesset if he attends.

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.

Mr Katsav will not address parliament during the ceremony opening its winter session, the first time in Israeli history that the president has not done so.

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 member a member of the Knesset, 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.

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 with the political establishment, 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."

"There is sufficient evidence indicating violation of the law banning wire-tapping by the president," it added.

The statement said police also found basis for charges of fraud and malfeasance in office concerning presidential pardons granted by the president - one of the few powers of his office.

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.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16