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Israel top court orders president to justify staying in office while under investigation

[JURIST] Israel's Supreme Court [official website] has demanded that Israeli President Moshe Katsav [official website] explain within a week why he has not resigned or suspended his functions while facing a possible indictment for rape, sexual harassment, wire-tapping, and other charges [JURIST report], according to Israeli media reports Sunday. The court also urged Israeli Attorney General Menahem Mazuz [official profile] to quickly decide whether the president will be formally charged. Police recommended the indictment following a three-month investigation covering at least 10 complaints against Katsav by former employees. Katsav's lawyer has said that the president will resign if indicted [Haaretz report]. Mazuz will decide whether to bring an indictment after prosecutors review the evidence, a process that could take a month or longer.

Various legal commentators have called for Katsav to resign [YNet report] and Israeli Education Minister Yuli Tamir [official profile] has suggested that the Knesset should begin impeachment procedures [Haaretz report] should he refuse. Katsav has denied the allegations against him and has vowed to clear his name. The Israeli presidency, which Katsav has occupied since 2000, is largely ceremonial with real power vested in the prime minister [official website]. AFP has more.

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