An Arab Israeli former MK serving a two-year prison sentence for smuggling cellular phones to Palestinian terror convicts won’t be granted early release, after a parole board ruled that he hadn’t expressed adequate remorse for his crimes.
Basel Ghattas, a former Joint (Arab) List lawmaker, was convicted in April 2017 of exploiting his position to sneak the electronic devices and notes to security prisoners in Israeli prisons.
He had appealed to have his time at Gilboa Prison reduced by a third, a gesture granted to prisoners who are well-behaved during their sentence.
On Tuesday, the Justice Ministry said in a statement that the courts’ parole board had accepted the recommendation of the state prosecutor’s office and determined that Ghattas was unworthy of early release.
“That is, among others, in light of the severity of the offenses for which he was convicted, which undeniably harmed the state’s security, and also because he didn’t express genuine remorse for his actions despite admitting he committed them,” the statement said.
According to the decision, Ghattas won’t be granted parole unless he undergoes a rehabilitation process in prison.
Ghattas came under criminal investigation after being caught on prison surveillance video passing envelopes to Palestinian security prisoners in December 2016.
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, 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. Ghattas also met with Basel Ben Sulieman Bezre, who is serving a 15-year sentence on a terror conviction.
The Beersheba Magistrate’s Court accepted a plea bargain reached between state prosecutors and Ghattas, handing down a two-year prison term as well as 18 months’ probation and a NIS 120,000 ($33,000) fine.
The court also convicted Ghattas of moral turpitude, meaning he will be barred from serving in the Knesset for seven years after completing his sentence.
As he began his jail term in July 2017, Ghattas made it clear he wasn’t sorry for his offense.
“I walk into jail with my head held high,” he told supporters before entering the prison. “I acted for humanitarian reasons on behalf of the prisoners… I will continue to fight for prisoners’ rights.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.
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