Arrested Arab MK has office searched, is barred from voting
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Arrested Arab MK has office searched, is barred from voting

Cops investigate items belonging to Basel Ghattas, who is suspected of security offenses, including passing phones to jailed terrorists

Arab Joint List member Basel Ghattas, left, is brought to court for a remand hearing after his arrest on December 22, 2016 on suspicion of smuggling cellphones to Palestinian prisoners, at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, December 23, 2016. (Avi Dishi/Flash90)
Arab Joint List member Basel Ghattas, left, is brought to court for a remand hearing after his arrest on December 22, 2016 on suspicion of smuggling cellphones to Palestinian prisoners, at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, December 23, 2016. (Avi Dishi/Flash90)

In a highly unusual move, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein allowed police to search the parliamentary offices of MK Basel Ghattas, who is under arrest under suspicion of committing security offenses. Ghattas will also be barred from voting in the Knesset plenum while he remains in custody.

Ghattas, of the Balad party, which is part of the Joint (Arab) List faction, was arrested on Friday after preemptively giving up his parliamentary immunity amid accusations that he smuggled cellphones, SIM cards and coded messages to Palestinian terrorists jailed in Israel.

After receiving a court order on Friday, Edelstein permitted the highly unusual search to take place on Sunday evening.

Edelstein cited the court ruling that the search would be conducted “under conditions that guarantee that there will be no unreasonable or disproportionate harm to his privacy.”

To guarantee that, police officers conducting the search were to be accompanied by an officer of the Knesset appointed by Edelstein and by Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yanon.

In addition, “in any case of doubt, [the documents] will be placed and sealed in an envelope until the court rules” on its relevance, Edelstein said

Yanon also ruled Sunday that Ghattas may not take part in Knesset votes until his release from custody. The legal adviser explained that there is no clear precedent for a case like this.

In one previous instance, in 1978, Likud MK Shmuel Rechtman was permitted to continue to vote while appealing his sentence for accepting bribes. However, a new regulation enacted since that time states that jailed MKs are to be suspended from their parliamentary roles until released.

Ghattas allegedly passed as many as 15 cellphones and several SIM cards to the inmates, who are serving their sentences in Ketziot Prison, south of Beersheba.

One of the prisoners that Ghattas is alleged to have met with during a visit last Sunday to Ketziot is Walid Daka, who is serving a 37-year sentence for the 1984 abduction and murder of 19-year-old IDF soldier Moshe Tamam. The second inmate, Basel Ben Sulieman Bezre, is serving a 15-year sentence for terror offenses.

Police reportedly arrested Ghattas Friday over concerns he might flee the country, like Balad founder Azmi Bishara, who fled Israel in 2007 to escape a police and Shin Bet investigation into allegations he was paid by Hezbollah to help locate targets for rocket attacks within Israel.

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