After two days of police interrogation, President Moshe Katsav on Saturday is set to make his first public comments about accusations that he sexually harassed a former female employer and that he received bribes in exchange for granting the presidential pardon for criminals.
In an interview with Israel Radio, which will fully broadcast on Saturday, Katsav said he is innocent and slammed calls by some members of parliament for calling on him to resign.
Katsav said it is unconceivable that Knesset members "insist on a handing down a sentence before judgment."
Katsav said he has been subject to a public smearing campaign since sexual assault allegations by an ex-staffer surfaced in the media, noting that the police investigation was launched three days ago and no official complaint has been filed against him.
Katsav slammed Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich for siding with the plaintiff, whom she had met in the Knesset on Thursday. Yacimovich said the plaintiff told her of a "web of offenses ranging from sexual harassment to rape."
"What she is doing is simply trying to fill the duty of (High Court President) Aharon Barak, (Attorney General) Menachem Mazuz, and (Police Chief) Moshe Karadi, the big priest, the big judge, the big police chief, the Attorney General," Katsav said of Yacimovich in the interview.
"Ms. Yacimovich decided that it is enough to hear the version of one side. It is unacceptable that they convict a man before being found guilty. But she has good faith she should wait for the legal authorities, the police and the prosecution to complete the investigation," he said.
Concerning the public opinion about him, President Katsav said: "Read the headlines. Within a month and a half, six weeks and over, there are all kinds of stories of slander and different humiliations every day, and nobody understands. Nobody gets up and says 'People, lets wait until the investigation is over'." When asked if he is innocent, he said: "Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely. All the accusations and the allegations are all blood libels. It never happened. It's all lies and falsehoods."
Attorney Kineret Barashi, the lawyer of the president's accuser, told Ynet that early on Friday morning, someone broke into her house leaving no apparent marks. Several personal items were stolen from the purse of the plaintiff, who currently lives in Barashi's apartment. The purse itself was left in the apartment.
Immediately after she found out the plaintiff's purse was robbed, Barashi alerted the police who arrived at the apartment to investigate. Barashi pointed out that she leaves the investigation in the hands of police and is not suspecting anyone.
On Thursday, the plaintiff met with MK Yacimovich and told her about what allegedly went on in the president's office. "I sat and listened for hours to her detailed testimony of alleged sexual crimes of all sorts, ranging from sexual harassment to rape," Yacimovich told ynet. "It's a wide spectrum – starting with sexual harassment up to rape with the use of force. Based on my impression and my expertise with many rape victims, I found her testimony very credible."
According to Yacimovich, the plaintiff's testimony exposes a series of severe crimes. "I have to point out that, in connection with the ad that was published about hugs and kisses, of what is allowed and what isn't, we are now in the darker area of a criminal offence that is clear and severe, for which the sentence is an active prison term. This is a matter of a suspicion of rape, including harassment."
On Thursday police interrogators probed Katsav for the second day. The president was investigated
for long hours in his house in Jerusalem.
On Sunday, he will leave on vacation and the investigation is set to resume in 10 days. The police released an official statement following the investigation saying that "the investigation team and President Moshe Katsav set up dates for further investigations."
The investigation focused on the plaintiff's allegation of forced sexual relations. The president firmly denied the allegations.