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Rape charge for Israeli president

Story Highlights

• Israel's President Moshe Katsav will be indicted on rape charges
• Katsav denies wrongdoing, his lawyer says he is victim of blackmail
• Investigation began after former employee alleged he forced her to have sex
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel's attorney general has determined that there is enough evidence to charge Israeli President Moshe Katsav with sex crimes, including rape, which stem from allegations from four of his former female employees, the justice ministry said Tuesday.

Katsav will have a chance to refute the charges in a hearing with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz before Mazuz can proceed with the indictments.

According to a statement from the ministry, Katsav is charged with raping a woman who worked for him in the tourism ministry in 1998 and 1999, as well as indecent acts with use of force.

He is also charged with unlawful intercourse and indecent acts against another woman who worked with him while he was president in 2003-04. Katsav also faces charges of indecent acts with abuse of power against two women who worked for him as president.

He is also being charged with obstruction of justice and harassing a witness.

Katsav has denied any wrongdoing and his lawyer has said that he is the victim of blackmail.

Three months ago, Mazuz recommended Katsav temporarily step down as president -- a mostly ceremonial position in Israel's government -- as he considered the charges.

Criminal investigation

Katsav has said he would suspend himself from office if indicted. His term ends in July and he is not eligible for a second seven-year term, under Israeli law.

A previous Israeli president and several prime ministers have been suspected of financial misdeeds and a former defense minister was convicted of sexual harassment. But the charges facing Katsav are the most serious criminal counts brought against a serving Israeli official.

Mazuz launched a criminal investigation of Katsav in July after a former employee alleged he forced her to have sex under the threat of dismissal.

Police repeatedly questioned Katsav at his official residence and seized personal documents.

Katsav was appointed president by parliament in 2000 after President Ezer Weizman resigned amid allegations of corruption.

Though the Israeli president's role is mostly ceremonial, Razi Barkai, a political journalist for more than 30 years, told CNN these accusations, true or not, will mean an end to Katsav's political career.

News of a possible presidential sex scandal, which was overshadowed when it broke during Israel's war with Hezbollah, has recently become the focus of national media coverage.

CNN's Shira Medding contributed to this report


Israeli President Moshe Katsav.



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