[JURIST] Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav [BBC profile] rejected a controversial plea agreement [JURIST report] Tuesday, opting instead to face rape charges [JURIST report] first brought against him in 2006. Under the terms of the plea agreement, which was upheld [JURIST report] by the Israeli Supreme Court in February, Katsav was permitted to plead guilty to lesser sex charges of indecent assault, sexual harassment, and obstruction of justice, in exchange for a suspended sentence and the dropping of the rape charges. Katsav may face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the more serious rape charges.
The deal was heavily criticized by women's and civil rights activists [JURIST report] last year when it was first made public. 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. Despite the criticism, Israeli Attorney General Menaham Mazuz defended the agreement as necessary to protect the office of the presidency from further injury and spare the country from embarrassment. AP has more.