Palestinian ex-lawmaker imprisoned over 'morally-motivated' phone smuggling

Palestinian ex-lawmaker imprisoned over 'morally-motivated' phone smuggling
2 min read
02 July, 2017
A Palestinian ex-lawmaker who was motivated by "humanitarian and moral positions towards prisoners" entered prison on Sunday, after pleading guilty to smuggling mobile phones to Palestinian detainees.
Bassel Ghattas was motivated by "humanitarian and moral positions towards prisoners" [AFP]

A former Palestinian lawmaker entered prison on Sunday to begin a two-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to smuggling mobile phones to Palestinian detainees, a prisons spokeswoman said.

Basel Ghattas of the Arab-dominated Joint List resigned his seat in the Israeli parliament as part of a plea bargain reached in March.

The 61-year-old admitted handing phones and SIM cards to Palestinian inmates.

"I enter prison with my head held high and I will continue my battle for prisoners' rights," Ghattas said before entering Gilboa prison in northern Israel, in comments broadcast on army radio.

Israeli media reported that 12 mobile phones were found on two prisoners in searches after Ghattas visited the high security Ketziot prison in December, using his parliamentary immunity to avoid being searched.

Ghattas has said his actions were motivated by "humanitarian and moral positions towards prisoners".

Prosecutors dropped charges of terrorism and endangering state security, for which he could have faced up to 10 years in prison.

Lawmakers of the Joint List, the third largest bloc in parliament with 13 seats, frequently clash with Israeli authorities, and Ghattas' party, Balad, is especially critical of Israeli policies.

Its three lawmakers triggered outrage among Jewish Israelis last year by meeting relatives of Palestinians that Israel claims were killed while carrying out alleged attacks.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel for a range of offences and alleged crimes. Around 500 are held under administrative detention, which allows imprisonment of suspects without charge.

In late May, a record number of Palestinian prisoners ended a 40-day Freedom and Dignity hunger strike in what was seen as a “turning point” in the way Israelis treat Palestinian detainees, leader Marwan Barghouthi said in a statement announcing the victory.

The prisoners were deprived of all sanitary and hygiene materials, turning their lives into hell and releasing shameful rumours and lies” during the hunger strike, Barghouthi said. 

“Yet, the record of the prisoners has been one of unprecedented steadfastness and the Israeli repression failed to break their will,” he added.

Barghouthi described the hunger strike as “a turning point in the relationship between the prisoners and mechanisms of the prison administration” and that “from now on and after today, we will not allow any infringement upon the achievements and the rights of the prisoners.”