Katsav Attorney: President Will Fulfill Promise, Suspend Himself

Katsav to announce plans in press conference Wed.; had promised High Court to take leave if brought to trial.

President Moshe Katsav was planning to hold a press conference Wednesday morning to announce that he is declaring himself temporarily incapable of carrying out his presidential duties, Katsav's attorney, David Libai, said Tuesday, in the wake of the attorney general's announcement that he plans to indict Katsav on charges of rape, fraud and breach of trust.

Katsav's three-month period of incapacity is due to come to a close once a final decision is made on the indictment, after Katsav presents his case.

Libai's comments put a halt to the rumor that Katsav was not planning to suspend himself. Katsav had told the High Court of Justice two months ago that he would do so as soon as Attorney General Menachem Mazuz made his first decision regarding Katsav's indictment, and that he would permanently quit the presidency if the decision to indict becomes final.

"The president will honor his statement to the High Court," said Libai at a press conference Tuesday that he held with Zion Amir, another of Katsav's attorneys.

However, associates of the president said he is dismissing calls for his resignation.

Katsav, who has consistently accused his accusers of involvement in a conspiracy against him, compared himself this week to Americans hounded in the anti-Communist witch hunts of the 1950s. "Senator Joe McCarthy has been resurrected in Israel," Katsav said Monday, at his most recent public appearance.

Katsav continues to maintain his innocence.

"We believe that the attorney general will change his position at the hearing," said Libai. "The president is convinced it will still become clear to everyone that he is a victim of false allegations, and he will fight to prove his innocence."

Katsav was informed of Mazuz's decision in a meeting with his lawyers, after the Justice Ministry gave Libai a three-page letter detailing the charges. No indictment was attached to the letter.

Libai has asked Mazuz for the investigation material to be sent to him so he can assess how much time he needs to prepare for the hearing. The evidentiary material includes testimony from more than 100 witnesses.

"The president's feeling is one of serious affront," said Amir. "He had a clear understanding during the whole period that the evidence in the investigation file would lead to a different decision. The decision came down on his head like cold water, but it's important to emphasize that our feeling is that there are holes in this case."

At the press conference on Tuesday, Libai attempted to undermine the credibility of several complainants, and said Katsav's attorneys have additional material about the witnesses that they plan to give Mazuz before the hearing.

Meanwhile, Katsav's brother Lior and two of Katsav's sons cut short a vacation in the United States in light of Tuesday's indictment announcement.

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