by Andrew Friedman/TPS
Former MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List) will begin serving a two-year sentence at Gilboa Prison Sunday. Ghattas pleaded guilty to smuggling 15 cellphones and SIM cards to security prisoners at Ketziot Prison last December. Ghattas was detained by police on his way out of the prison and subsequently waived his parliamentary immunity for a plea bargain that included an additional suspended sentence of a year and half, a NIS 120,000 fine and a conviction for moral turpitude.
Members of the Joint List party declined to comment Sunday, but at the time party chairman Ayman Odeh criticized Ghattas, saying that although the party works to ensure the same rights for Palestinian and Israeli security prisoners, it was “unacceptable” to violate accepted democratic rules.
“We have to work through democratic means, so, in any case, whether it is telephones or notes, we have our general line. He did something wrong and it is not acceptable to us,” Odeh said at the time.
Members of Ghattas’ Balad faction, however, rejected Odeh’s criticism, saying there was “no justification” for the MK’s arrest.
“The arrest of MK Ghattas is a vindictive move carried out in an atmosphere of growing hostility and wild incitement toward the Arab public, spearheaded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Balad will stand firm against this attack, protect the rights and status of MK Basel Ghattas and not let him be slandered. [We] will defend the legitimate political activity of the Arab minority,” the party said.
Ghattas, a Christian Arab from the Galilee, is the second Balad leader to run afoul of the law. In 2007, party founder and then-MK Azmi Bishara fled the country after police opened an investigation into suspicions that he passed information about Israeli troop movements and military installations to Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War the previous year.
Bishara, who currently lives in Qatar, has denied the allegations, and claims he is staying abroad because he believes he wouldn’t receive a fair trial in Israel.