Palestinian-Israeli lawmaker gets jail for smuggling phones to inmates
An Israeli court on Sunday sentenced a Palestinian-Israeli former MP to two years in jail after he pleaded guilty to smuggling mobile phones to Palestinian prisoners, a court transcript showed.
Basel Ghattas, of the Arab-dominated Joint List, resigned his seat in the Israeli parliament as part of a plea bargain reached last month in which he admitted handing the phones and SIM cards to Palestinian inmates, saying this was for "humanitarian and moral reasons".
He had told The New Arab that he hoped what he did and the price he will now pay would not go in vain.
"I hope that we as a people, community, civil groups and parties, shall give due attention to the suffering of Palestinian prisoners in the occupation's prisons and put it on the agenda of the Arab and international public opinion," he said at the time.
The prosecution dropped charges of terrorism and endangering state security for which he could have faced up to 10 years in prison.
In addition to the reduced sentence of 24 months, he was fined 120,000 shekels, ($33,300), according to the transcript released by the justice ministry.
It said the court, in the southern city of Beersheba, also ruled that Ghattas is barred from standing for parliament for seven years after his prison term ends.
His lawyers have 45 days to appeal.
The court ordered the 60-year-old Christian to begin serving his sentence at Dekel prison in Beersheba on 2 July, granting his request not to be jailed until the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan as he will be confined with Muslim prisoners.
Ghattas said last month that he signed the plea deal to stop the "racist campaigns of incitement" against Palestinians that accompanied the allegations against him, but admitted that he was worried about going to prison.
"It will not be easy, but despite the pain and the bitterness, this was the best possible option instead of years of trial accompanied by racist and fascist incitement campaigns," he told The New Arab.
Ghattas's case began in mid-December when the Israeli Prison Service claimed the MK brought mobile phones to prisoners Walid Daqqa and Bassel al-Baraza when he was visiting them.
The allegations unleashed a wave of incitement led by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who called for Ghattas's impeachment, triggering a law that allows this measure if 90 MKs vote in favour following an indictment.
The vote was postponed after the plea bargain was announced.