Israeli Arab Lawmaker Barred From Knesset Committees Over Cellphone Smuggling Case

MK Basel Ghattas accused of handing the phones to Palestinian prisoners has been under house arrest since last week after his parliamentary immunity was lifted.

MK Basel Ghattas at court on December 23, 2016.
AMIR COHEN/REUTERS

A legislative panel on Monday suspended Israeli Arab MK Basel Ghattas from participating in Knesset committees.

In its vote the Knesset Ethics Committee cited the allegations against Ghattas, smuggling cellphones to Palestinian prisoners, finding that this amounted to a breach of lawmaker norms.

MK Ghattas (Joint List) was questioned by police about two weeks ago and arrested last week after his parliamentary immunity was lifted. He is under house arrest while police investigate the suspicions against him.

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 The Ethics Committee, however, decided not to revoke Ghattas' voting rights nor did it freeze his salary. Last week, the Knesset's speaker decided in coordination with its legal advisor not to permit Ghattas to vote while he is still under arrest.

On Sunday, the brother of a Palestinian security prisoner was indicted for providing MK Ghattas with cellphonesallegedly smuggled to other security prisoners during a visit to an Israeli jail last month.

Asad Daqqa is accused of conspiring with his brother, Walid Daqqa, and Ghattas to smuggle the phones into Ketziot Prison. According to the indictment, Asad Daqqa knew that his actions would endanger lives.

The indictment stated that Ghattas and Asad Daqqa met at a Dor Alon gas station on Route 6, where the accused allegedly gave the Arab lawmaker four packages containing 12 cellphones, 16 SIM cards and additional equipment.

Ghattas then met with Walid Daqqa in Ketziot Prison and allegedly gave him documents, whose contents were not mentioned in the indictment. Afterward, Ghattas met with another security prisoner, Basel Bizra, and allegedly handed over the four packages to him.

Asad Daqqa faces charges of working with items for the purpose of terror and bringing in equipment (radio, cellphones) to the prison illegally.