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Israeli police question president on new allegations

Israeli police on Thursday questioned President Moshe Katsav on new allegations by one of the women involved in previous accusations of rape, sexual assault and fraud, police said.

Katsav underwent more than two hours of questioning at his Jerusalem residence Thursday, Micky Rosenfeld said. He declined to give details on the interrogation.

Israeli media said the charge was filed by one of the former female subordinates who have complained against Katsav in the past. Police have said that the new complaint by one of the women had nothing to do with the previous ones.

In January, Attorney General Meni Mazuz announced his intention to indict the president on charges of rape, sexual assault and fraud. The cases all involve women who worked for Katsav while he was president, and before that, as a Cabinet minister.

Following standard practice in charges involving senior officials, Mazuz said he would give Katsav a last chance to state his case before filing a formal indictment. A hearing is scheduled for May.

Katsav, who denies all wrongdoing, agreed to suspend himself from his ceremonial position, but has refused to resign. His seven-year term is set to expire later this year.

Shortly after Mazuz announced his intention to indict him, Katsav rejected the charges in a 50-minute televised tirade. He accused the news media of launching a witch hunt against him, implying he was a target because of his Sephardic background.

Sephardic Jews, or those of Middle East origin, have long complained of discrimination at the hands of the Jews of European backgrounds. Katsav was born in Iran and lived in an impoverished tent camp as a child.

The Katsav affair is among a number of scandals plaguing the Israeli leadership.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is under investigation about real estate deals and sale of a state-owned bank. Justice Minister Haim Ramon stepped down after he was convicted of sexual misconduct for forcibly kissing a female soldier. On Thursday, he was sentenced to 120 hours of community service.

In addition, Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson is suspected in an embezzlement case and Israel's police commander, Moshe Karadi, resigned over his role in a case involving organized crime.

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