Prosecutors intend to charge President Moshe Katsav with rape and other crimes against female employees, the Justice Ministry said on Tuesday, in what would be an unprecedented indictment against an Israeli head of state.
Katsav has denied wrongdoing. His post is largely ceremonial and the scandal is unlikely to have a direct impact on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert — who has himself been hurt politically by a string of investigations into suspected corruption, which he has denied.
The case against Katsav, months in the making, appeared certain to strengthen the feeling among many Israelis that misconduct is rampant at the top.
“The attorney-general, with the agreement of the state attorney, reached the conclusion that there is sufficient prima facie evidence to indict the president,” the Justice Ministry said in a statement.
The scandal erupted last year when several former staffers filed complaints with police, accusing Katsav of sex crimes.
The ministry said an indictment would include the charge of raping one of the four women who accused Katsav of sexual assault.
In the statement, Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz gave Katsav a last chance to present legal arguments before a final draft of the indictment, proposing a hearing at which he promised to hear the president’s response with an “open heart and a willing soul.”
Asked on Channel 10 television if Katsav intended to resign, his lawyer, Sharon Nahari, said: “I think it is too early to say. What is important is that this is a very difficult day for Israel. We hope all will become clear after the hearing.”
The ministry said a date for the hearing would be set soon.
While serving as president, Katsav can be put on trial only if he is impeached by parliament. He has said he would suspend himself from office if indicted.
Katsav has been president since 2000 and is due to stand down in July