Israeli Supreme Court ruled that it would not hear a sexual harassment indictment against the 61-year-old politician until it rules on petitions demanding the plea deal be cancelled.
The petitions against the contentious plea-bargain were filed by a civil watchdog group and women's rights organizations, who argued that the deal was 'extremely unreasonable' in that it allows the indictment against Katsav to forgo the rape charges of which he is accused, and instead only cite sexual harassment, indecent acts and obstruction of justice.
The plea-bargain, which Katsav signed Thursday, also stipulates that he will be handed a suspended sentence and will not go to prison or do community service.
'We must wait until the debate on the petitions scheduled for tomorrow at noon before the State can serve the indictment to the Jerusalem Magistrates Court,' the Court decision Sunday read.
Israel Radio reported that the prosecution announced it would not submit the indictment until the court ruled on the petitions.
The indictment hearing was supposed to have taken place on Sunday afternoon, after Katsav's resignation, which he submitted Friday, came into effect, as it did shortly before noon local time (0900 GMT).
The plea-bargain has sparked outrage in Israel, and Attorney- General Menahem Mazuz, who announced it, has come in for savaging from the press and public who feel that justice has not been served.
Around 20,000 people demonstrated in Tel Aviv Saturday night against the deal, with the more determined of them calling for the resignation of the attorney-general.
Mazuz had earlier declared that there was enough evidence to indict Katsav on one, possibly two, rape charges.
He told a television interviewer Saturday that had the plea- bargain not been struck, Katsav would have been indicted for rape, but there was no guarantee the prosecution could have made the charges stick in court.
Other accusations were not included in the plea bargain because of the statute of limitations, Mazuz said.
The accusations against Katsav were allegedly committed either when he was tourism minister in the late 1990's, or during his tenure as president, which began in 2000.
'We met with the president and made it clear to him that there is an individual who has for years behaved like a serial sexual offender. But the greatest difficulty is the offences to which the statue of limitations applies,' he said.
Katsav has steadfastly denied the accusations since they first surfaced one year ago and his associates, including his son, said he only signed the plea-bargain to end the suffering his family was undergoing.
In response, Mazuz and other legal officials said the deal would be cancelled if Katsav did not stand up in court and admit his guilt.
'If Katsav does not stand before the court and say that, yes, for more than a year he committed the acts described in the indictment, but instead states that he wants to make things easier for his family and that these things never happened, there will be no plea-bargain,' State Prosecutor Eran Shendar told Israel Army Radio Friday.
Last Mod: 01 Temmuz 2007, 16:53