Knesset Panel Extends President's Suspension Until End of His Term

Katsav's term in office expires on July 15; prosecution: Police did not use wiretapping in Katsav probe.

The Knesset House Committee on Sunday extended President Moshe Katsav's temporary suspension until the end of his presidency on July 15.

The president had asked the committee to extend his suspension "until further notice," but Knesset legal advisor Nurit Elstein determined that the suspension could only be expanded for a specific period of time.

Katsav can, however, terminate the period of incapacitation at any time. In its decision, the committee criticized the president for not resigning.

The extension was approved by an 11-4 margin, with all those who voted in favor being members of the governing coalition. Most of those opposed to the measure were opposition members, and said they were opposed to extending the temporary suspension in order to bring public pressure to bear on the president to resign.

Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On called the decision embarrassing, while Likud faction chairman Gideon Sa'ar suggested adding the phrase "for the glory of the State of Israel" ? a reference to the Declaration of Independence.

Coalition Chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki (Kadima) accused those who voted against the extension as taking advantage of the knowledge that the extension would be approved.

Nontheless, Yitzhaki added his voice to the "protest over the fact that Katsav is still president. He is shaming himself and the presidency."

Prosecution: Police did not use wiretapping in Katsav probeThe state prosecution told the High Court of Justice Sunday that the police did not use wiretaps during the investigation into Katsav, despite claims by his defense team.

The president's lawyers base the charges on an electronic chip discovered in a telephone device and on the prosecution's request that some evidence gathered in the investigation be declared privileged and not transmitted to the defense.

But during the court hearing Sunday, the prosecution stressed that there was no wiretapping of Katsav, his family or his associates.

In fact, the prosecution said, the only wiretapping used in the entire case was against A., one of Katsav's accusers who worked in the president's official residence, and who was suspected of attempting to blackmail the president before the probe developed into an investigation into the allegations against Katsav.

Katsav defense attorneys Zion Amir, Avigdor Feldman and Avraham Lavi asked High Court on Sunday that it order all investigative material be handed over, including anything acquired through wiretaps.

"If covert wiretaps were used, they broke all the rules," said a source on the Katsav defense team last week.

According to the source, if Katsav himself was wiretapped then his immunity was violated, since a president discusses work matters on the telephone.