Justice Minister Ramon to be tried on indecent assault charges
Attorney General Mazuz determines complainant's testimony is 'consistent and expected to be credible.'
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided Thursday to indict Justice Minister Haim Ramon on charges of indecently assaulting a female employee in his office.
Police said Tuesday that there is sufficient evidence to indict Ramon for indecent assault of the woman last month.
Police sources told Haaretz that the evidence allegedly indicates that Ramon forcibly kissed the woman employee at her leaving party in the Kiriya, the Defense Ministry compound in Tel Aviv.
The attorney general determined that the woman's testimony was "consistent and expected to be credible." He added there is no escaping a court examination of the affair.
Mazuz's decision was delivered Thursday to Ramon, and is subject to a hearing requested by the justice minister.
If Ramon announces he will not request a hearing on the matter, the attorney general's decision will be considered final and Ramon will have to immediately resign as a government minister.
If, however, Ramon does request a hearing, Mazuz will examine whether he can continue serving as justice minister.
The Justice Ministry said Thursday that if Ramon requests a hearing, it would be held in the near future.
Mazuz reached the conclusion that sufficient evidential basis was collected during the investigation of the affair to ensure a reasonable chance of conviction.
The attorney general made his decision after examining materials collected during the police investigation and after consultations with State Prosecutor Eran Shendar, senior prosecution officials, Tel Aviv District Prosecutor Ruth David and senior police officials.
Ramon is to be indicted that allegedly took place on July 12, the day that the war broke out in the north. Evidence collected by police indicates the justice minister forcibly kissed the female employee, despite her objections. The young woman told police she met Ramon on July 12 when he arrived at a special cabinet meeting to discuss developments on the Lebanese border.
The woman attended an office party with Ramon, who acquiesced to her request to have their photograph taken together in the presence of other attendees. Afterward, the two entered a side room where, according to the woman, Ramon forcibly kissed her on the mouth.
Ramon denied all the allegations and maintains the woman kissed him.
The Movement for Quality Government demanded on Thursday evening that Ramon resign from his post.
Ramon's replacementsTension is building in Kadima over the question of who may replace Ramon as justice minister.
According to the High Court of Justice, a minister tried on serious charges must resign his post. From the moment the decision to indict Ramon becomes final, there will be a need to nominate a new justice minister. A replacement minister is also expected to come from Kadima.
The two most obvious replacements for Ramon are Transportation Minister Meir Sheetrit and Interior Minister Roni Bar-On.
Sheetrit served as justice minister between 2001 and 2003.
Bar-On is a lawyer and was nominated in 1997 to serve as attorney general but was forced to resign after two days on the job due to intense public criticism.
Ramon's departure from the government would also allow Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to nominate another Kadima member as minister.