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Israel high court backs Katsav plea agreement on sexual harassment charges

[JURIST] The Israeli Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday upheld a controversial plea agreement [JURIST report] for former Israeli President Moshe Katsav [official profile; BBC profile], in which Katsav was permitted to plead guilty to lesser sex charges in exchange for a suspended sentence and the dropping of rape charges [JURIST report] brought against him in 2006. Under a deal criticized by women's and civil rights activists [JURIST report], Katsav admitted to charges of indecent assault, sexual harassment, and obstruction of justice, and resigned from the presidency two weeks before the end of his term. A victim and several rights organizations filed five separate petitions [Haaretz report] to overturn the agreement, arguing that it was contrary to public interest, had no legal reason, and injured the principal of equality before the law. Under the original rape charges, Katsav would have faced up to 20 years in jail; under the plea agreement, he will receive a suspended sentence and no jail time.

In October 2006, Israeli police recommended [JURIST report] that the attorney general indict Katsav following a three-month investigation of at least 10 complaints against him brought by former employees. Despite the criticism, Israeli Attorney General Menahem Mazuz has defended the agreement as necessary to protect the office of the presidency from further injury and to spare the country from embarrassment. AP has more.

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