European Group May Probe Israel Decision to Indict Arab MK

Mohammed Barakeh charged with allegedly attacking policeman during anti-separation fence rally.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union is considering sending representatives to oversee the legal proceedings against Hadash chairman Mohammed Barakeh, charged with assaulting a police officer during an anti-separation fence rally in the West Bank.

In November, then Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided to indict Barakeh for allegedly attacking a policeman during a demonstration at the West Bank separation fence.

Barakeh allegedly assaulted a member of the Israel Prisons Service's elite Masada unit at a protest in the West Bank village of Bi'ilin in 2005.

The policeman was taking a detainee to a police car at the time of the alleged assault.

Mazuz was also considering including on the charge sheet the crimes of offending a public servant and issuing threats, offenses which Barakeh is alleged to have committed at two other demonstrations.

In one of the incidents, Barakeh allegedly attacked a police officer during a 2006 protest in Tel Aviv, while in another he is accused of assaulting a passerby during a demonstration in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square.

Haaretz had recently learned that Barakeh had appealed to the international body with the aid of the director of the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, Hassan Jabareen, bemoaning Israel's decision to indict him.

The IPU, based in Geneva, sets its goal at protecting the rights of parliament members, and represents dozens of European legislative bodies, including the Knesset.

In late February, the IPU called on Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin to address claims brought up by Barakeh's representatives, who said that the charges brought up by then AG Mazuz were baseless, attempted to disrupt legitimate political activities, and go against Barakeh's parliamentary immunity.

The IPU wrote in the response given to Barakeh's representatives, that the organization's general assembly would decide in a March 27 vote whether or not to send observers to his trial, a move that would force the Knesset to address Barakeh's appeal.

The organization, however, cannot intervene or force a resolution on either side, although its future recommendations could have a significant political and ethical effect with regards to the alleged discrimination of Arab MKs.

Meanwhile, the European Union, following Barakeh's appeal, stated that it will be sending a representative to Tel Aviv's magistrate court, where Barakeh's trial is planned to take place.

Barakeh told Haaretz that the charges against him were not factually based, saying that he intended to "refute the indictment in court."

"The ones that are being violent and abusing freedom of demonstration and of speech are the police and the security establishment," Barakeh added.

"Only last week, the Supreme Court had to intervene in order to ensure freedom of protest in Sheikh Jarrah," he continued, adding that his indictment "reeks of politics."

"It's not a personal trial but an attempt to terrorize and deter anyone wishing to exercise his democratic right to resist government policy," the Hadash chairman said