Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Israeli President Moshe Katsav Accused of Rape

The image “http://www.isracast.com/images/president_big_en.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Police may charge Katsav with rape in light of woman's claims
By Jonathan Lis and Roni Singer-Heruti, Haaretz Correspondents
Haaretz (Israel)
August 18, 2006

Officials investigating an alleged extortion attempt aimed at President Moshe Katsav are expected to question him following claims by a female former employee that she was coerced into engaging in sexual relations with the president.

Police said Thursday that Katsav will be questioned in the coming days. Investigators have yet to determine which specific charges will be brought against the president on the basis of the woman's accusations.

Law enforcement officials said Thursday that if the former employee's claims that she was powerless in turning away Katsav's advances are deemed credible, the investigation would then focus on possible rape charges against the president.

By law, intimate relations with a woman who is precluded from providing full consent by her own volition is considered rape. If, however, investigators find the relations were consensual, police could recommend charging Katsav with "forbidden consensual intercourse," a statute which forbids exploiting a position of authority in the workplace for the purposes of having sex.

The former employee at the President's Residence told the police that since the affair surrounding Katsav's alleged sexual harassment and attempted extortion became known, the president's men had been pressuring her in an attempt to silence her.

Some two months ago, Katsav gave Attorney General Menachem Mazuz a letter, in which he said that he believed the former employee had tried to extort him, threatening that if he denied her requests she would accuse him of sexual harassment.

The woman consented to take a lie detector test about a week ago. The test included questions about the sexual contact between the employee and the president, and indicated that the woman had answered several questions truthfully. However, in other cases her answers were not unequivocal and the police were collecting testimonies to corroborate or refute her testimony.

About a month ago the special inquiry team in charge of the affair, headed by Brigadier General Yoav Sigalovitch, summoned the former employee to the station in Lod. At first they questioned her under warning on suspicion of attempted extortion. Later, however, she gave them a detailed account of her grievances against the president, although she did not submit an official complaint.

Haaretz learned that unlike the first reports on the affair, which dealt with the president's alleged sexual harassment, the former employee told the police under caution that the president had used his authority and senior position to coerce her into having sexual relations with him.

Although the inquiry has been going on for almost two months, the investigators have not received Mazuz's permission to question the president yet, police said.

In the course of the last few weeks, the detectives have collected testimonies of employees and former employees at the President's Residence, in a bid to corroborate the information and avoid a situation whereby the case depends on the employee's word alone against the president's.

The affair began when the president met Mazuz and told him he suspected a former employee, whom he had met recently, had threatened to accuse him of sexual harassment unless he did as she asked. She also threatened to expose alleged irregularities in the president's process of granting pardons.

After Katsav's meeting with the attorney general, Mazuz decided to open a criminal probe into the affair.

The former employee's attorney, Kinneret Brashi refused to comment "in view of the fact that the inquiry hasn't even reached the President's Residence yet. It is unthinkable and improper that one party hasn't been questioned yet, while the testimony of the other is made public and revealed to the first party."


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