Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Tuesday declined to provide MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) with material that led to the opening of a criminal investigation against her, and he said she must report for questioning when it is scheduled.
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Last week, Weinstein approved the opening of a probe against Zoabi on suspicion of incitement to violence and insulting a public servant. Zoabi is suspected of having spoken offensively to Arab police officers in a Nazareth courtroom, calling them collaborators, among other things.
The police had sought to question Zoabi on Sunday. But over the weekend she wrote to the attorney general through her lawyer, Hassan Jabareen of Adalah, the Legal Center for Minority Rights in Israel, asking for the investigative material on which the inquiry was based. Jabareen said he wanted to know the topic of the investigation and the suspicions against Zoabi so he would be able to give her legal advice as a member of Knesset who enjoyed parliamentary immunity.
Jabareen said that he had represented Knesset members accused of similar acts and that they had received the investigative material. “But in Zoabi’s case, it seems that the police are overly enthusiastic and want to investigate her with lightning speed,” Jabareen said.
Weinstein notified Zoabi on Tuesday that he was turning down her request for the information. “The investigative authorities are not obligated to give the one being investigated, including Knesset members, information before they have been thoroughly questioned about the incidents and allegations on which the investigation is based," he said in a statement.
"No one disputes the importance of the right to counsel, and like anyone under investigation, MK Zoabi can consult with an attorney. Still, no one under investigation has the right to receive a ‘description of the incidents and allegations of the investigation’s topic’ in advance.”
Weinstein said the immunity law “did not provide Knesset members with immunity to being investigated by the police. The immunity law set explicit limits regarding the actions that may be taken against a Knesset member, including immunity to searches, electronic surveillance and arrest, and immunity to criminal prosecution, and also ways to lift that immunity. The law does not provide immunity to investigation, and with good reason. The purpose of an investigation is to clarify the facts and get the Knesset member’s version of events in order to decide whether the actions are covered under immunity or not.”
The attorney general said that in recent years many Knesset members and ministers have been investigated and they reported for questioning without setting conditions.
Zoabi had also sought information about the handling of her complaint about inflammatory statements made against her. Regarding that request and her claim that the police were acting against her out of ulterior motives, he wrote, “These things are not interrelated, and in any case there is a presumption that the Israel Police will respond to MK Zoabi once her complaints have been examined.”