Hearing Held for Israeli Arab Lawmaker Suspected of Smuggling Phones to Palestinian Prisoners

Basel Ghattas, of the Joint List party, faces possible charge of terrorism-related offense

MK Basel Ghattas of the Joint List appears in the Magistrate's Court over suspicions that he smuggled cell phones to Palestinian prisoners, January 5, 2017.
Ilan Assayag

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit held a hearing on Wednesday for MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List) ahead of a final decision on whether to indict him for smuggling cell phones to Palestinian security prisoners.

Ghattas was not at the hearing, but was represented by his attorneys, Hassan Jabareen and Mohammad Bassam from the Adalah center, who had requested the session.

Mendelblit has already given an initial nod to an indictment against Ghattas for smuggling 12 miniature cellphones and SIM cards, as well as documents, to two prison inmates. The charges would be prohibited use of property for terrorist purposes, aggravated fraud and breach of trust by a public servant.

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 draft indictment says 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, at a meetup on the Trans-Israel Highway. Ghattas hid the packages inside his shirt along with documents when he visited the prison. A metal detector went off as he entered the prison ground, but he told the guard that his belt had set off the detector. He refused to remove it and pass through a second time, saying that because of his parliamentary immunity he could not be searched. 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.”