Rights Group Asks Mazuz to Halt Probe Into Druze MK Who Visited Syria

Higher Arab Monitoring Committee group argues lawmaker's visit to Syria part of legitimate political activity.

A civil liberties organization asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to immediately halt the investigation into Balad MK Said Nafaa, over his September visit to Syria in defiance of a ban on visits by MKs to enemy states.

The chairman of the public committee for the protection of civil liberties, which operates within the framework of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, said Nafaa's visit falls within the framework of legitimate and transparent political activity.

"This activity stem from the Arab population's basic and natural right to contact and visit Arab countries," he wrote, adding that "the State of Israel seeks to isolate its Arab population from the Palestinians and the Arab world.

Police questioned Nafaa for three hours Sunday, focusing also on his ties to Palestinian spokesmen, who complemented Balad during the party's recent conference in Shfaram against the U.S.-sponsored Annapolis conference on Middle East peace.

Nafaa's office said at the time that the visit, as part of a delegation of Druze religious leaders, was aimed at strengthening ties between Israeli and Syrian Druze, as well as improving links between Israeli Arabs and the Syrian people.

Investigators focused on two aspects, including to extent Nafaa assisted the Druze religious leaders in their visit, as well as his role in arranging passage through Jordan. The second aspect was his meetings with senior Syrian officials, including Vice President Farouk Shara and Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad.

Nafaa, who may be questioned again, said the questioning only strengthened his belief that the investigation into him is politically motivated.

"I am an MK and political figure and it is very important to me to hear what the Syrian administration is saying, and what their positions are on issues such as war and peace," said Nafaa. "It was essential that I meet with them."

The MK added that, should he be charged over the visit, he will forfeit his immunity and be prepared to stand trial.