Palestinian MK placed under house arrest

Basel Ghattas of the Joint List accused of smuggling mobile phones and SIM cards to Palestinians prisoners.

Ghattas, second from the right, has neither publicly denied nor confirmed the accusations [Reuters/Amir Cohen]
Ghattas, second from the right, has neither publicly denied nor confirmed the accusations [Reuters/Amir Cohen]

A Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament has been placed under house arrest for 10 days after he was accused of smuggling mobile phones and SIM cards to Palestinian prisoners.

An Israeli court in Rishon LeZion, a city near Tel Aviv, issued the decision on Tuesday.

Basel Ghattas, of the Joint List, a predominantly Palestinian electoral coalition in the Israeli Knesset, was arrested last week after he surrendered parliamentary immunity for search and arrest, and remained in police custody for six days undergoing interrogation.

Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, said that the legislator would be placed under house arrest with a “number of specific restrictions”.

“He will not be allowed to leave the country until the final decision is made on the investigation,” Rosenfeld told Al Jazeera.

“He is also not allowed to visit any prisons for the next 180 days.”

When asked what evidence was presented before the court on the accusations, Rosenfeld said there was “concrete evidence” but would not elaborate on the nature of it.

“A second suspect involved in the case was arrested this morning,” he said. 

Avichai Mandelblit, the Knesset’s attorney general, said Ghattas was caught on police surveillance cameras giving envelopes to one of the prisoners at Ketziot prison in the south of the country, but the investigation is still under way.

Ghattas has neither publicly denied nor confirmed the accusations, but in a video posted on his official Facebook page before his arrest on December 22, he said that he “did not carry out any violation linked to so-called state security or the security of citizens”.

“My ongoing activism in regards to the prisoners … my personal, moral, humanitarian and conscience-based activism, is one that I do not regret,” he said.

Ghattas’s office and home were raided and searched by Israeli police during the time of his arrest.

Moshe Mizrachi, a Rishon LeZion magistrate’s court judge, set bail at 50,000 shekels (approximately $13,000).

‘Exploiting incident’

Yousef Jabareen, who is also a member of the Joint List, said “there is no doubt that these are ongoing efforts by Israel’s right-wing parliament to strip away the legitimacy of Palestinian politicians”.

“They are exploiting this incident and blowing it out of proportion,” Jabareen told Al Jazeera.

“They are persisting in their efforts to frame us as enemies, in line with their racist agenda.”

READ MORE: Arab Knesset members vow to ‘sue Netanyahu’

Last year Israel banned the northern branch of the Islamic Movement.

Earlier this year, Israeli police carried out mass arrests of political activists and members of the Arab Democratic National Assembly party, or Balad, on accusations of money laundering.

An estimated 1.7 million Palestinians, descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948, hold Israeli citizenship.

According to the Haifa-based Adalah Legal Centre for Arab Minority rights, Palestinian citizens of Israel suffer from more than 50 discriminatory laws limiting their access to state resources and political expression.

Source: Al Jazeera


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