President Shimon Peres' aides received information about suspected sexual offenses of Peres' opponent, Moshe Katsav, during the race for the presidency in 2000, and hoped the material could be used to oust Katsav from the race.
The Knesset speaker at that time, Avraham Burg, confirmed to Haaretz this week that at the height of the 2000 campaign, which Peres lost to Katsav, one of Peres' aides invited himself to Burg's office and informed Burg of suspicions against Katsav.
The aide asked Burg to persuade Katsav to drop out of the race for the sake of his own dignity and that of the Knesset, whose members ultimately voted him into office. Burg said this week that the Peres aide did not leave any of the material with him.
Burg said he turned down the request because it was not part of the Knesset speaker's duties, and he told the aide that if the material they had against Katsav was of a criminal nature, they should take it to the police.
Burg denied allegations of senior figures in the Knesset who had followed the Peres-Katsav race, that Katsav associates told him at the time about embarrassing material against Peres, and that he was asked by both sides to guarantee a mutual accord not to attack each other.
A Peres aide said that he could not recall a request to involve Burg, and the only information of the type for which Katsav was convicted last week that reached the Peres campaign had to do with a report by a friend of the woman known as A. from the Tourism Ministry. The friend said A. told her that Katsav had attacked and harassed her.
The Peres campaign then reportedly asked the friend to persuade A. to file a police complaint, but the friend said that A. had decided not to do so, for fear her livelihood would be compromised.
Peres' associates said this week that due to the sour turn relations between Peres and Katsav took as a result of the race, and public sentiment against Katsav, the president was unlikely to consider pardoning Katsav. That would be the case even if Katsav managed, following the end of legal proceedings against him, to persuade the clemency department in the Justice Ministry and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman to support such a request.
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