Former Joint (Arab) List lawmaker Basel Ghattas will serve two years in prison, a court ruled Sunday, accepting a deal after he pleaded guilty to smuggling contraband to Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jail.
The Beersheba Magistrate’s Court accepted the plea bargain reached between state prosecutors and Ghattas, who was convicted of exploiting his position to sneak cellphones and notes to convicted Palestinian terrorists.
After accepting the deal, the court handed down a two-year prison term to Ghattas, as well as 18 months probation and a NIS 120,000 ($33,000) fine.
His sentence will begin on July 2, according to the court ruling.
The conviction was found to carry moral turpitude, meaning he will be barred from serving in the Knesset for seven years after completing his sentence.
Ghattas had to previously resign from the Knesset as part of the deal.
Despite accepting the plea deal, Judge Itay Bresler-Gonen said the sentence Ghattas received was “easy” and a “deviation” compared to the sentences received by others for similar crimes, in particular given his “public status.”
Last month, Ghattas was convicted by the court after admitting to the smuggling phones into prison, smuggling documents and breach of trust.
Ghattas came under criminal investigation after being caught on prison surveillance video passing envelopes to Palestinian security prisoners in January.
Police said that the MK exploited his position as a member of Knesset — who cannot be subjected to a body search — during a visit to Ketziot Prison in southern Israel last year, where he met with Walid Daka, a Palestinian prisoner serving a 37-year sentence for the 1984 abduction and murder of 19-year-old IDF soldier Moshe Tamam. The MK also met with Basel Ben Sulieman Bezre, who is serving a 15-year sentence on a terror conviction.
Ghattas consistently denied the allegations against him, saying that authorities were pursuing him because he was an Arab MK, but had to contend with video footage that appeared to show him smuggling the cellphones into the prison.
Ghattas resigned from the Knesset last month and was replaced by fellow Balad Party member Juma Azbarga.