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Arab MP in plea bargain over smuggling phones into jail

Ghattas will seek reduced term and resign his parliament seat

Image Credit: Reuters
Israeli Knesset member Basel Ghattas (C) arrives at the Magistrates Court in Rishon Lezion, Israel Dec. 23, 2016.
Gulf News

Occupied Jerusalem: An Arab lawmaker of 1948 areas has agreed to admit charges of smuggling mobile phones to Palestinian prisoners in return for a reduced sentence, the justice ministry and his spokeswoman said Friday.

Basel Ghattas, of the Arab-dominated Joint List, will plead guilty to handing mobile phones and SIM cards to Palestinian detainees in the high security Kziot prison during a visit in December, the justice ministry said.

He will also announce his resignation from parliament, a ministry spokesman said.

“It was concluded between the parties that they would apply to the court for a two-year sentence.”

Ghattas could have faced up to 10 years in prison, his spokeswoman said, confirming the plea bargain.

Israeli media have reported that 12 mobile phones were found on two separate prisoners in searches after Ghattas visited.

The 60-year-old Christian allegedly used his parliamentary immunity to avoid being searched.

One of the prisoners is serving time for the kidnapping and murder of an Israeli soldier in 1984, the Ynet news website reported.

In a statement late Thursday, Ghattas said his action was motivated by his “humanitarian and moral positions towards prisoners and he is ready to assume full responsibility for it.”

Lawmakers of the Joint List, the third largest bloc in parliament with 13 seats, frequently clash with Israeli authorities.

Arabs make up some 17.5 per cent 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.

Ghattas’s party, Balad, is especially critical of Israeli policies.

Its three lawmakers triggered outrage among Jewish Israelis last year when they met relatives of Palestinians who authorities say were killed while carrying out attacks.