Tuesday, March 27, 2007

AG calls investigative evidence against Israeli President 'grave'

Last update - 15:46 27/03/2007

AG Mazuz calls investigative evidence against Katsav 'grave'

By Haaretz Service

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz indicated in remarks broadcast Tuesday that the evidence compiled in the criminal investigation of President Moshe Katsav was "grave," and that Katsav had made untrue statements in an impassioned television address in January.

Turning to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Mazuz said that there was "significance" to the number of alleged graft affairs to which Olmert has been linked.

On January 23, Mazuz announced that he was considering indictment of Katsav on a range of charges including rape, sexual harassment, breach of trust, witness tampering, and fraud. Mazuz is to make the decision after holding a hearing for the president.

The next day, Katsav addressed the nation in a prime-time speech, in which he hinted that Mazuz had leaked information from a conversation between the two, violating a prior agreement to keep the content of the talk confidential.

"The statements are not true, untrue and inexact," Mazuz said in remarks broadcast on Israel Radio. "During that famous speech, the president said things which were untrue, on that subject and on other subjects."

Mazuz was speaking to Israel Channel 1 television's Politica program, which is to be aired on Tuesday night. Asked if was saying that Katsav was a liar, Mazuz responded:

"The investigative evidence is much graver than this remark or that, in this speech or that. Therefore, we wouldn't need to base our case on some comment or other in a speech."

As for Olmert, whom press reports have tied to a number of alleged affairs involving cronyism in job appointments and possible financial irregularities, Mazuz said "There is no doubts that there is significance to the quantity [of allegations], certainly when we are speaking of events of the same type, because they give a certain overall picture."

Katsav to be summoned for new questioning
Lawyers for Katsav, currently on a leave of absence while the investigation proceeds, have said that he would resign if a decision were made to bring him to trial.

Katsav will be summoned by police for additional questioning on Thursday, after a new complaint of sexual harassment was recently filed against him.

It appears that one of the women who had complained against the president in the past has recently complained of another harassment incident, which had not previously been made known to the police.

Mazuz approved the police request to summon Katsav for further questioning, although the complaint had been filed after a hearing was scheduled for the president on May 2.

Following the hearing, Mazuz will make a final decision on whether or not to indict the president.

The police investigation team notified Katsav's attorney Zion Amir of the additional interview yesterday and of the nature of the complaint, but did not provide details.

The president refused the police's demand to interview him at the police station or in a "neutral place." Mazuz then permitted the police to interview Katsav at the President's Residence in Jerusalem.

"This is very strange," Amir said yesterday. "The complainant will have to explain why she remembered now, close to the president's hearing, and whether anyone is behind this new complaint of hers."

Last week, Katsav petitioned the High Court of Justice, demanding that the state provide all materials collected in the investigation against him on suspicion of rape and other sexual assault charges.

Katsav's attorneys are questioning the legality of the president's investigation, claiming that all the material against him was illegally obtained.

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