Arab-Is­raeli for­mer law­maker jailed over ‘phone smug­gling’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

An Arab-Is­raeli for­mer law­maker en­tered prison yesterday to be­gin a two-year sen­tence af­ter he pleaded guilty to smug­gling mo­bile phones to Pales­tinian de­tainees, a prisons spokes­woman said. Basel Ghat­tas of the Arab­dom­i­nated Joint List re­signed his seat in the Is­raeli par­lia­ment as part of a plea bargain reached in March.

The 61-year-old ad­mit­ted hand­ing phones and SIM cards to Pales­tinian in­mates. Prose­cu­tors dropped charges of ter­ror­ism and en­dan­ger­ing state se­cu­rity, for which he could have faced up to 10 years in prison. “I en­ter prison with my head held high and I will con­tinue my bat­tle for prison­ers’ rights,” Ghat­tas said be­fore en­ter­ing Gil­boa prison in north­ern Is­rael, in com­ments broad­cast on army ra­dio.

Is­raeli me­dia have re­ported that 12 mo­bile phones were found on two prison­ers in searches af­ter Ghat­tas vis­ited the high se­cu­rity Ket­ziot prison in De­cem­ber, us­ing his par­lia­men­tary im­mu­nity to avoid be­ing searched. One of the prison­ers is serv­ing time for kid­nap­ping and mur­der­ing an Is­raeli sol­dier in 1984, the Ynet news web­site said. Ghat­tas has said his ac­tions were mo­ti­vated by “hu­man­i­tar­ian and moral po­si­tions to­wards prison­ers”.

Law­mak­ers of the Joint List, the third largest bloc in par­lia­ment with 13 seats, fre­quently clash with Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties. Ghat­tas’s party, Balad, is es­pe­cially crit­i­cal of Is­raeli poli­cies.

Its three law­mak­ers trig­gered out­rage among Jewish Is­raelis last year by meet­ing rel­a­tives of Pales­tini­ans au­thor­i­ties say were killed while car­ry­ing out at­tacks. Arab Is­raelis make up some 17.5 per­cent of the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion and are de­scended from Pales­tini­ans who re­mained on their land af­ter the cre­ation of Is­rael in 1948. They hold Is­raeli cit­i­zen­ship but most see them­selves as Pales­tini­ans. —AFP

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