Arab MK suspected of passing phones to prisoners released to house arrest
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Arab MK suspected of passing phones to prisoners released to house arrest

Joint List’s Basel Ghattas can attend Knesset debates while under supervised custody; second suspect arrested in case to be kept behind bars for three days

Joint (Arab) List member Basel Ghattas is brought to court for a remand on his arrest at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, December 27, 2016. (Yair Sagi/POOL)
Joint (Arab) List member Basel Ghattas is brought to court for a remand on his arrest at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, December 27, 2016. (Yair Sagi/POOL)

An Israeli court released MK Basel Ghattas to house arrest on Tuesday, five days after he was arrested on suspicion of passing phones and intelligence information to Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prison.

The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday sent Ghattas to 10 days’ house arrest, setting bail at NIS 50,000 ($13,000).

Police had requested that Ghattas, from the Balad faction within the Joint (Arab) List Knesset party, spend 45 days under house arrest while they investigate the case against him.

Police spokesperson Luba Samri said that according to the terms of his release Ghattas will be permitted to attend Knesset debates and votes accompanied by supervisors who will escort him to the entrance of the plenum.

In addition, Ghattas is forbidden to contact other suspects in the case. He is also barred from leaving the country and may not visit detention facilities to meet with security prisoners for 180 days.

Police reportedly want him detained 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.

The court also extended the detention of a second suspect arrested in the case earlier in the day, Assad Daka, for three days.

Daka is the brother of Walid Daka, one of two prisoners whom Ghattas allegedly met with during a visit to Ketziot prison last week.

Walid Daka is serving a 37-year sentence for the 1984 abduction and murder of 19-year-old IDF soldier Moshe Tamam.

The MK also allegedly met with Basel Ben Sulieman Bezre, who is serving a 15-year sentence for terror offenses.

Ghattas was arrested on Friday after waiving his parliamentary immunity amid accusations that he gave the cellphones, along with SIM cards and coded messages to Dak and a second Palestinian inmates.

The lawmaker refused to tell investigators who gave him the smuggled phones but his lawyers claimed Monday that police already knew who provided them. Ghattas has reportedly admitted that Daka asked him to bring him books from a third party, but maintains he was unaware of the contents of the package.

Appearing in court on Monday, Ghattas challenged his detention, asking the court whether there was any need for him to have been in custody for the past four days without being asked a single question.

He also asked why, as a Christian, he had to spend Christmas in prison. He also asked whether police would have treated him differently if he weren’t an Arab.

“I still have hope that the courts are an island of sanity and common sense,” he said.

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