Israeli Arab Ex-lawmaker, Imprisoned for Smuggling Phones to Inmates, Asks to Be Transferred Over Health Concerns

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Former Israeli Knesset member Basel Ghattas at the Magistrates Court in Rishon Letzion, December 23, 2016.
Former Israeli Knesset member Basel Ghattas at the Magistrates Court in Rishon Letzion, December 23, 2016. Credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Former Israeli Arab lawmaker Basel Ghattas, currently serving a prison term for smuggling phones to Palestinian security prisoners, petitioned a district court on Sunday to transfer him from Nafha prison to another facility.

According to Ghattas, who suffers from medical issues, the conditions in Nafha are not suitable for his health. In his request to the Be'er Sheva court, Ghattas argued that the prison is overcrowded and the bathroom hard to use since it does not have toilet seats, forcing inmates to squat.

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He admitted that he smuggled cellphones to Palestinian security prisoners in a plea bargain that included a two-year prison sentence. He was then formally convicted on charges of fraud, breach of trust, providing material support for the perpetuation of an act of terror and smuggling a prohibited letter and electronic equipment into a prison.

Ghattas resigned from the Knesset two days after he was served with an indictment. He said that his actions were motivated by conscience and told the court in 2017 that his actions were not the result of malicious intent or a desire to aid terror organization. Rather, they were done "for humanitarian reasons, even if they seemed to be mistake. My feeling is that I am not facing a system that seeks justice, but rather windmills that are trying to destroy me."

He began his sentence on July 2017 in Gilboa Prison in northern Israel, but has since been moved where he claimed to have had conditions suitable to his health. However, last November he was transferred to Ramon Prison and after complaining about the conditions in that prison he was transferred to Hadarim prison and then to Nafha, where he is now. 

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