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Former Israeli president to be charged with rape

Israel's former president Moshe Katsav will be charged with rape and other sex crimes, the country's justice ministry says.

JERUSALEM // Israel's former president Moshe Katsav will be charged with raping a woman who once worked for him and other sex crimes against former female employees, the country's justice ministry said on Sunday. The move is nearly a year after Mr Katsav called off a plea bargain that would have allowed him to escape jail. The charges stem from a series of complaints filed by four women who worked for Mr Katsav when he was tourism minister in the 1990s and president earlier this decade.

They have accused him of crimes including rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. Mr Katsav has denied any wrongdoing. His defence lawyer Tzion Amir told Israel TV that state prosecutors "don't have evidence or a case" and that his client would be "dramatically acquitted". Mr Katsav resigned in 2007, two weeks before his seven-year term expired, under a plea bargain that would have required him to admit to lesser charges of sexual misconduct. The deal allowed him to avoid charges carrying up to 20 years in prison.

But in a dramatic reversal last April, he called off the plea bargain and said he would stand trial to clear his name. Mr Katsav contends he is innocent. The attorney general Meni Mazuz has not decided when to file the indictment, which will also include charges of indecent acts and obstruction of justice. A ministry spokeswoman said the warning of the impending indictment is customary for public figures. She said the indictment would be filed in "a short while," adding there would be no plea bargain or hearing.

Mr Katsav was replaced as president by Shimon Peres. *AP

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