New suspicions against former Israeli president

July 11, 2011 - 11:44 AM
Mideast Israel Katsav

FILE - In this March 22, 2011 file photo, former Israeli President Moshe Katsav arrives at a court in Tel Aviv. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Monday, July 11, 2011 that Katsav, currently appealing a rape conviction, is now suspected of harassing a witness in the case. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav is being investigated for allegedly harassing a witness as he appeals a rape conviction, police said Monday, in a new twist to a lurid case that has captivated the country for four years.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Katsav — along with his brother and a son — hired two private investigators. Rosenfeld said the investigators allegedly tried to "hassle" and "have an influence" on the witness. Katsav is believed to have been "fully aware" of what the investigators were doing and "gave the order" to them, Rosenfeld said.

The Katsavs, and the investigators, were recently questioned about the affair, Rosenfeld said, adding that the incident is still under investigation.

He declined to identify the witness or describe what kind of harassment allegedly took place. Israeli media said the investigators had been ordered to dig up evidence that would undermine the credibility of the rape victim and other witnesses.

Speaking to Israel Radio, Danny Sror, lawyer for the rape victim, refused to discuss the specifics of the case, but said the alleged action sheds light on Katsav's character.

"I can say that it was an act that was in my view very severe," he said. "It shows yet again the personality and behavior of Mr. Katsav."

Katsav's lawyer Avigdor Feldman told Israel Radio that his client's family hired private investigators who were instructed to operate within the confines of the law.

A gag order relating to the fresh allegations against Katsav was eased on Monday.

Katsav was convicted of raping an employee when he was a Cabinet minister in 1998 and of sexual harassment involving two other women when he was president from 2000 to 2007. He was sentenced to seven years in prison in March, making him the country's highest ranking official ordered to serve time.

An Israeli Supreme Court judge has ruled that Katsav can stay out of jail while he appeals the conviction.

Katsav, 65, has denied that he ever committed rape, claiming he is a victim of a political witch hunt.