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Palestinian-Israeli MK banned from voting, has office raided

Balad Party MK Basel Ghattas [L] has denied accusations against him [AFP]

Date of publication: 26 December, 2016

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Israel's Knesset is reduced to 119 members after Arab MK Basel Ghattas' detention is extended and is blocked from voting.
Israeli police searched the offices of Arab Joint List MK Basel Ghattas on Sunday, after permission was granted by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.

This is the first time such permission has been granted since 1979.

Edelstein also ruled on Sunday that Ghattas will be barred from voting in the Knesset while he remains in custody. This will reduce the number of MKs in Israel's legislature to 119.

These moves follow the arrest of Ghattas on Thursday, after the Knesset lifted his parliamentary immunity privileges. Ghattas, 60, is accused of smuggling cellphones into Israeli prisons for Palestinian inmates.

According to Israeli authorities, Ghattas was filmed passing envelopes to two Palestinian prisoners at the Ketziot Prison in the Negev desert. The recording followed a tip-off to Israeli Prison Service about a plan to smuggle communications devices into the prison.

Following Ghattas' departure from the facility, 12 cellphones were reportedly found on the prisoners.

Ghattas has routinely defended his innocence, describing his arrest as political persecution. As a member of the Palestinian-Israeli party, Balad, he has frequently fought with the Israeli government.

"We are used to these kinds of investigations and attempts to criminalise, which are designed to de-legitimise our work," Ghattas said.

If found guilty, Ghattas could face a number of serious charges, including conspiracy to commit a crime, fraud, breach of trust and providing material assistance to a terrorist organisation.

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