The Ethics Committee of the Israeli Knesset, Israel’s parliament, voted on Monday to bar Palestinian Knesset Member Basal Ghattas from parliamentary activity for six months, according to Israeli news website Ynet.
Monday’s decision means that Ghattas, who is suspected of smuggling cellphones to “Palestinian terrorist” prisoners, will not be allowed to speak at the Knesset’s committee meetings, make speeches at the plenum, or submit bill proposals. He will, however, still be able to vote.
Ynet added that “this is the most severe punishment the committee is authorized to hand out.”
Ghattas, a member of Joint List which represents parties led by Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Knesset, is being charged with “conspiring to commit a crime, fraud, breach of trust, and violations of Israel Prisons Service orders.”
He was ordered to 10 days house arrest last week, shortly before he was set to be released after six days in police custody.
Following Monday’s decision, Ynet reported that Ghattas called the Knesset committee’s decision “vindictive,” highlighting that such a decision had not been made against other knesset members who were still under investigation prior to the filing of a formal indictment.
Israeli court orders MK Basel Ghattas’ remand extended until Monday https://t.co/GKiIy5dmim
— Ben White (@benabyad) December 23, 2016
“The political system and the law enforcement system don’t stop setting in records in their treatment of Arab MKs,” he added, saying he will consider petitioning to the Israeli High Court of Justice to cancel the decision.
Ynet added that the committee had also discussed revoking Ghattas’s salary, a move supported by most committee members. However, MK Yousef Jabareen of the Joint List opposed the move, which requires a unanimous vote to pass.
“The committee believes the acts Ghattas is being investigated for—of smuggling cellphones and other material to security prisoners—constitute a breach of the ethical code,” Ynet quoted the committee as saying.
According Ynet, a statement released on behalf of Ghattas at the time of his arrest stated that “”This is a vengeful and arbitrary arrest, because the police, (Prime Minister) Netanyahu and (Public Security) Minister Erdan want a photo of an Arab MK in handcuffs.”
“The arrest is a political move and is not necessary to the investigation. Fairness obligates to treat an Arab public representative just like a Jewish one, and that is not the situation here,” the statement added.
Ghattas was stripped of his parliamentary immunity last week, with the Israeli Attorney General stating that Ghattas had “passed envelopes to security prisoners,” leading Israeli prison authorities to confiscate the envelopes which allegedly contained “12 cell phones, 16 SIM cards, two cell phone batteries, and headphones,” according to Ynet.
(Ma’an, PC, Social Media)