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Israel PM and President face criminal charges

Published 04/02/2007

Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and president Moshe Katsav are both facing

possible criminal charges for separate crimes, officials reported today.

Olmert is facing a corruption inquiry after Israel's government watchdog

presented a draft of a report on a suspect property deal. The case could develop

into a criminal investigation.

Meanwhile, a respected lawyer advising Katsav over accusations of rape and

sexual assault has quit - the latest turn in a seven-month scandal which has

brought calls for his dismissal although he has so far not been charged.

In Olmert's case the government watchdog investigated complaints about the

purchase of a house in a historical Jerusalem neighbourhood. Jerusalem officials

have until the end of the month to respond to the report.

The focus of the investigation is the finding that Olmert paid #165,000 less

than market value for the property, leading to suspicions of fraud and bribery.

If Olmert were indicted, he would have to resign, but such a development would

be many steps down the road. Olmert has denied any wrongdoing in the Jerusalem


Olmert has been dogged by corruption allegations throughout his long political

career but has never been convicted.

Meanwhile a statement from Katsav's office said he and lawyer David Libai, a

former justice minister, agreed Libai would no longer represent the president.

Moves are under way in parliament to remove Katsav from office, but sponsors

of the initiative are still short of the 90 votes needed in the 120-member

house. His seven-year term is due to end in July.

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