Attorney general confirms Arab MK admitted smuggling papers into prison
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Attorney general confirms Arab MK admitted smuggling papers into prison

Lawmaker Basel Ghattas testified he gave envelopes with banned items to Palestinian prisoners but claims he didn't know contents, Mandelblit says, urging his immunity be stripped

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in Jerusalem on July 5, 2015. (Emil Salman/POOL)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in Jerusalem on July 5, 2015. (Emil Salman/POOL)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit confirmed that Joint (Arab) List MK Basel Ghattas admitted to smuggling contraband to Palestinian inmates in Israeli prison in a letter Wednesday, ahead of a Knesset committee hearing on stripping the lawmaker of parliamentary immunity.

In his urgent letter to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Wednesday morning asking that Ghattas’s immunity be lifted, Mandelblit also confirmed there was video footage of Ghattas handing over papers to one prisoner — Walid Daka — and giving four envelopes to a second inmate, Basel Ben Sulieman Bezre.

Daka is serving a 37-year sentence for the abduction and murder of 19-year-old IDF soldier Moshe Tamam and Bezre is serving a 15-year sentence for terror offenses.

The House Committee is to vote later in the day on Ghattas’s immunity in a bid to advance the criminal proceedings against the Arab lawmaker.

If the committee decides in favor of removing his immunity the matter would move to the Knesset itself, where fellow lawmakers would hold a final vote on Ghattas’s fate.

Parliament doesn’t usually meet on Thursday so a special plenum session would be called during which Ghattas will be given an opportunity to plead against the move.

Ghattas said Wednesday he would not appear before the Knesset House Committee.

In a letter to committee head Yoav Kisch, Ghattas claimed the rushed process in organizing the meeting and the manner in which the police and law enforcement authorities have handled the case until now has been unfair to him and that he would therefore not show up.

“In light of my knowing that the debate that will be held today is nothing other than a political discussion, the outcome of which is already known, I am informing you that I will not attend the meeting,” he wrote.

Ghattas was questioned on Tuesday by the national serious crimes unit of the Israel Police over allegations he handed miniature cellphones and secret notes to the two imprisoned Palestinians during a visit at Ketziot Prison south of Beersheba on Sunday.

MK Basel Ghattas arrives at the Lahav 433 police investigation unit in Lod, December 20, 2016. (Roy Alima/Flash90)
MK Basel Ghattas arrives at the Lahav 433 police investigation unit in Lod, December 20, 2016. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

After Ghattas’s visit, prison officials found 12 cellphones, 16 SIM cards, two phone batteries and a headphone in the envelopes, the attorney general said. The papers given to Daka were also seized and submitted for translation, he said.

During Ghattas’s interrogation on Tuesday, the Arab lawmaker initially denied all the allegations against him, said Mandelblit.

But when presented with the video evidence, he admitted to giving the envelopes to the prisoner, while insisting he had no idea what the envelopes contained.

Ghattas also confessed to giving Daka papers in violation of prison rules, but maintained the documents contained only “political content” related to the Balad party, which he is a member of.

According to the attorney general, the second prisoner admitted to receiving the envelopes from the lawmaker, but said he was unaware of their contents.

Daka denied the documents found on his person were from Ghattas.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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