Former Joint (Arab) List lawmaker Basel Ghattas on Sunday began his two-year prison sentence for smuggling contraband to Palestinian terrorists in an Israeli jail.
He arrived at Gilboa Prison in the morning, along with his family, on a chartered bus.
Several people gathered to greet Ghattas before he entered the prison, including fellow party member MK Hanin Zoabi.
“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.”
In a tweeted image he could be seen wearing a blue shirt, seated in the front of the bus heading toward the jail.
He said that in the past two months he has been overwhelmed by support from his family, and “many, many of my people and my supporters.”
In April, the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court accepted a 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.
Ghattas’s 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 resign from the Knesset as part of the deal. He was replaced by fellow Balad party member Juma Azbarga.
In March, Ghattas was convicted by the court after confessing to smuggling the 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 former MK also met with Basel Ben Sulieman Bezre, who is serving a 15-year sentence on a terror conviction.