The Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday overturned an assault conviction against former Hadash chairman Mohammed Barakeh.
He was convicted in April 2014 of having assaulted a right-wing activist in 2006 during a demonstration against the Second Lebanon War. He was sentenced to a fine of 650 shekels ($168).
The original indictment, submitted in September 2009, included four different charges against Barakeh stemming from four different incidents. In October 2011, before the trial even began, the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court erased two of those charges, saying that Barakeh, then a Knesset member, was protected by his parliamentary immunity.
Then, when it issued its verdict last year, the trial court acquitted Barakeh on the third count, in which he was charged with assaulting undercover soldiers during a 2005 demonstration against the separation fence in the West Bank town of Bil’in. But it convicted him of the last count, assaulting the right-wing activist.
Barakeh then appealed, with assistance from Adalah – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. And yesterday, the court erased his conviction, after the prosecution acceded to its suggestion that after almost 10 years had passed and the other, more serious, charges had all been voided, there was little public interest in continuing the legal battle.
“It was proven today that the entire case against Mohammed Barakeh, with its plethora of charges, was a political case from the outset,” said attorney Hassan Jabareen, Adalah’s director, after the ruling. “This is the first time an indictment has been filed against an MK because of his political activities, like participating in a demonstration. The cancellation of all the charges against [former] MK Barakeh proves that the state engaged in selective enforcement against an Arab MK because of his political activity.”
Barakeh himself said the result was a “resounding failure” for Menachem Mazuz, the former attorney general who approved the indictment, and who later became a Supreme Court justice.
“In the best case, this constituted a lack of professionalism, and in the worst case, political persecution,” Barakeh said. “In any case, someone like this doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court.
“After torture that went on for 75 months inside the courthouse, what we said from the start has been proven: The charges were political and their goal was to intimidate political activity by the Arab community,” Barakeh asserted. “The fact that this is the first time since the establishment of the state that an MK has been taken to court because of his [political] activity proves that this was an assault on the scope of political activity.”
Mazuz, he added, “should draw the necessary conclusions and resign from his place on the Supreme Court.”