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Rally against Katsav plea

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An estimated 20,000 Israelis rallied to demand that outgoing President Moshe Katsav be prosecuted for serious sexual misconduct.

Saturday night’s rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square was called to protest a plea bargain offered to Katsav in which the president will confess to sexually harassing and molesting female staff and be spared graver charges and possible prison time.

Women’s groups said the plea bargain, which was to be formally filed in Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Sunday, would discourage victims of sexual offenders from coming forward. Two public watchdog groups said they would lodge an 11th-hour petition against the deal with the High Court of Justice.

Opinion polls show that most Israelis believe Attorney General Menachem Mazuz erred in offering Katsav the deal. Mazuz, who announced in January that there may be grounds to indict Katsav for rape, said over the weekend that on review he found the evidence available warranted only milder charges.

But Mazuz made clear his personal views on Katsav, whose early resignation – another condition of the plea bargain – was to come into effect Sunday.

“We found ourselves faced with a president who, it emerges, conducted himself like a serial sexual offender,” Mazuz told Channel 2 television.

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