Court Delays Ruling on Tibi Petition Over Travel Limitations

The High Court decided Sunday to defer a decision on an appeal by MK Ahmed Tibi against a Knesset decision to restrict his movements inside the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

As the three-judge panel of Aharon Barak, Dorit Beinisch and Eliezer Rivlin listened to the petition, dozens of supporters of the Arab MK, from the Arab Movement for Renewal, protested outside the Supreme Court in Jerusalem.

Tibi is contesting the Knesset decision to limit his entry into the West Bank and Gaza Strip on the grounds that his freedom as a representative of the public is being unlawfully restricted. His attorney, Osama Sa'adi, claims that the Knesset decision harms Tibi's immunity - granted him as a Knesset member - and contradicts basic laws.

The restrictions on Tibi were initiated a year ago by far-right MK Michael Kleiner, who argued that Tibi was assisting the Palestinians in their war against Israel.

According to the Knesset decision, Tibi is to be treated like any other citizen with regard to travel in the territories, meaning he requires special authorization from the security services before entering areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. The restrictions on Tibi's movements are to stay in effect until the end of the current Knesset in late 2003.

"Someone once said, and correctly so, that my parliamentary immunity was stripped, but in the meantime I was granted public immunity," Tibi said outside the court building, as his supporters, wearing the Arab Movement for Renewal's yellow shirts, chanted slogans in his support.

In the past, the Knesset has restricted the movement of two other lawmakers. In 1984, Kach leader and Knesset member Meir Kahane had travel restrictions placed on him after inciting against Arabs during a trip to Umm al-Fahm.

In 1993, Arab MK Hasham Mahmid had his movements restricted after making remarks at a rally in the Gaza Strip that were seen to be incitement.