Posted Jun 29, 2007 12:13 am CDT
In a controversial plea bargain denounced by women’s rights activists, the president of Israel has agreed to step down from office immediately and plead guilty to sexual harassment and abuse of authority charges.
Accused of twice raping a female employee, among other offenses, during an earlier stint as tourism minister, Moshe Katsav previously agreed to pay $11,000 to victims in the case, reports the London Times. “Under the bargain, President Katsav admitted responsibility for a long series of sex offences, including harassment and indecent acts,” says Menachem Mazuz, the country’s attorney general.
However, Katsav, 61, who earlier this year denounced the charges as a witch hunt, is still apparently denying his guilt. According to the London Times, a spokesman for Katsav “said that he had only accepted the deal with the attorney general ‘after the smear campaign of the past year, and in order to spare his family the pain.’ “
Among those expressing outrage at the deal, which allows Katsav to avoid a possible prison sentence that could have been imposed if he had been convicted of rape, is a lawyer representing one of the plaintiffs. “This plea bargain sends a regrettable message to rapists,” her lawyer told the newspaper, denouncing the deal as “amoral.”
Katsav will be replaced as president by Shimon Peres, 83, a Nobel peace laureate defeated by Katsav in 2000 elections.