Former Israeli president has sexual plea bargain approved

Israel Materials 26 February 2008 12:08 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - After a lengthy appeal by women's advocacy groups, Israel's Highest Court of Justice approved a plea bargain signed by former Israeli president Moshe Katsav, under which he is to escape prison and has admitted to minor sexual harassment charges.

The plea bargain, signed in June 2007, had sparked outrage by the women's advocacy groups and a host of former female employees of the former president, who had accused him of severe sexual harassment, including rape.

A panel of five judges voted three against two that the plea bargain was legitimate, and rejected petitions submitted by the women's groups and by the attorneys of several women who complained against Katsav, accusing him of severe sexual harassment, including rape.

Under the bargain, Katsav will receive a suspended sentence and a fine. He will admit to committing an "indecent act."

The affair first broke in the summer of 2006, when Katsav reported to the police that a former employee identified only as "A" allegedly tried to blackmail him, demanding 200,000 US dollars in exchange for her silence on alleged sexual relations between him and the employee.

She subsequently filed a complaint, accusing him of having coerced her into a sexual relationship through intimidation. The complaint prompted nine other women to come forward and submit similar complaints.

Katsav vehemently denied the charges, as well having engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with any of the women.

His Attorney Zion Amir welcomed the supreme court ruling as a "victory," which he said came "after long months that every basic right was taken from the president."

But Attorney Kineret Barashi, who represented complainant A, said she had "severe criticism" of the court's lack of will to intervene in the attorney-general's decision to offer the mitigated plea bargain.

"Women will no longer complain and we have created a situation whereby Israel has become a paradise for sex offenders," she told Channel 2 television.