A bill to revoke the citizenship of people accused of betraying the state passed its first reading in the Knesset on Wednesday.

Initiated by MK Gilad Erdan (Likud), the law would allow the court to revoke a person's citizenship solely on the basis of secret evidence, provided by the Shin Bet security service.

Balad faction chairman MK Jamal Zahalka said Wednesday that the bill was a dangerous precedent to legitimize secret evidence in the Israeli justice system. "Even in court cases of top secret security offenses there is no such thing as a trial in the defendant's absence, on the basis of secret evidence," he said.

Zahalka said he would petition the High Court of Justice against the bill if it passed second and third readings. If the High Court rejects his petition, he said he would go to the International Court of Justice.

Erdan said only the court could decide whether to hold its debates in the defendant's absence. The existing law authorizes the interior minister to deny citizenship to a person who betrays the state with no trial. However, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said he will not permit the minister to invoke this procedure.