Court Hands Israeli Arab Ex-lawmaker 2-year Sentence Under Plea Deal

Court criticizes of plea deal for being to lenient, but ultimately agrees to accept it. Basel Ghattas was convicted of smuggling cellphones to Palestinian prisoners

Former MK Basel Ghattas arrives to court, April 9 , 2017.
Former MK Basel Ghattas arrives to court, April 9 , 2017. Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Former lawmaker Basel Ghattas was sentenced on Sunday to two years in prison after the Be'er Sheva Magistrates' Court accepted the plea bargain offered to him last month.

Ghattas was also given a further 18 month suspended sentence and was fined 120,000 shekels ($32,890). Justice Itay Bresler-Gonen, who presided over the case, criticized the plea bargain for its lenience, saying the ex-MK had gotten off lightly.

The former Arab Joint List MK was convicted last month on charges of fraud, breach of trust, providing material support for the perpetuation of an act of terror after smuggling a letter and cellphones to Palestinian prisoners.

Southern District Attorney Alon Altman of the prosecution said that the punishment agreed upon in the plea bargain was appropriate. He added that it was difficult to prove Ghattas's intention when he committed the offenses.

Ghattas was videotaped in mid-December passing envelopes to the inmates during a visit to Ketziot Prison. One of the prisoners, Walid Daka, is serving a life sentence for his involvement, as a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, in the 1984 kidnapping and murder of IDF soldier Moshe Tamam. Basel Suliman Bazrah, is serving 15 years for security offenses related to terrorism.

The indictment said Daka’s brother, Assad Daka, handed Ghattas four packages containing 12 cellphones, 16 SIM cards and other communications equipment, for Ghattas to smuggle into the prison. A metal detector went off as he entered the prison ground, but he told the guard that his belt had set it off. He refused to remove it and pass through a second time, invoking his parliamentary immunity. At the prison he met with Daka, the prisoner, handed him the documents, and later met with Bazrah, and handed him the cellphones and the other equipment.

A Justice Ministry statement on Ghattas said he “was aware that the communications equipment would be given to security prisoners and it was almost certain that it would be used to harm national security."

Ghattas was also sentenced with moral turpitude. In Israel, moral turpitude also entails economic sanctions, such as the cancellation of benefits to which former Knesset members would otherwise be entitled.