[JURIST] Lawyers for former Israeli President Moshe Katsav [BBC profile] Monday defended a controversial plea agreement [JURIST report] in which Katsav is to plead guilty to lesser sex charges in exchange for a suspended sentence and the dropping of rape charges [JURIST report], accusing critics who have filed a legal challenge against the deal [JURIST report] of shedding the "blood of Katsav" in a fashion reminiscent of mob witch-burnings during the Middle Ages. The colorful comments were filed in a letter to the Israeli Supreme Court [official website], which suspended the agreement and gave the government until Thursday to respond to five separate petitions [Haaretz report] filed against the plea bargain by a victim and civil and women's rights organizations. The petitioners argue that the plea deal is contrary to public interest, has no legal reason, and injures the principal of equality before the law.
Under the deal, Katsav will admit to charges of indecent assault, sexual harassment, and obstruction of justice, and will resign from the presidency. Katsav's resignation took effect Sunday. In October 2006, Israeli police recommended [JURIST report] that the Israeli attorney general indict Katsav following a three-month investigation of at least 10 complaints brought against him by former employees. The plea agreement, announced by Attorney General Menahem Mazuz [official profile] last week, was criticized by women's rights activists as special treatment, but Mazuz defended the agreement as necessary to protect the office of the presidency from further injury and spare the country from embarrassment. Haaretz has local coverage.