August 25, 2006

Israeli president denies alleged sexual harassment

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli President Moshe Katsav denied
on Friday allegations that he coerced a former female employee
into having sex with him, in his first public interviews since
he was interrogated by police this week.

"These are absurd allegations," he told the Yedioth
Ahronoth newspaper. "I never had sex with (the woman)."

The president, whose role is largely ceremonial, also told
Israel radio that he was the victim of a "public lynching
without trial or investigation."

Israeli police confiscated computers and documents from
Katsav's residence earlier in the week and have questioned him
for hours regarding accusations of sexual harassment.

Katsav's office has said he would cooperate with police.
Yedioth Ahronoth quoted Katsav as saying that he would be
willing to take a lie detector test if the questions were given
to his lawyer to review in advance.

Katsav told the newspaper that the employee was a
"troublesome" worker who was trying to blackmail him and that
he was pleased when she quit her job at his office.

If charged, Katsav would be immune from standing trial but
could be impeached by parliament if it determined he acted
inappropriately. He has been president since 2000.

The scandal involving Katsav, the indictment of a former
cabinet minister over a forced kiss and allegations against
other leaders have darkened the mood in Israel, where major
leaders have come under fire over the month-long war in