22 March 2018

Israel extends embattled Arab MK's detention

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An Israeli judge on Friday ordered an Arab member of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) to remain in detention until next Tuesday so that he might answer allegations that he had smuggled cell phones to jailed Hamas members.

Basel Ghattas was hauled before a judge in Israel’s Rishon Letzion district court after being arrested on Thursday night shortly after he voluntarily surrendered his parliamentary immunity.

According to Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Ahronoth, the judge presented Ghattas with phones that he had allegedly smuggled earlier to jailed members of Palestinian resistance movement Hamas.

"There are reasonable grounds to believe that the suspect’s release could pose a threat to public security," the newspaper quoted the judge as saying.

The Knesset’s Arab Joint List, of which Ghattas is a member, condemned the Arab MK’s arrest, describing it as an "unprecedented" move against a sitting parliamentarian.

"This is the first time for the attorney-general to order the arrest of a Knesset member while investigating him," the list said in a statement.

"Such a decision was never carried out against MPs or Jewish political figures," it added.

Israeli police on Thursday evening interrogated Ghattas -- after he voluntarily surrendered his parliamentary immunity -- regarding allegations that he had smuggled cell phones to Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s Ktzi'ot Prison.

Police have also slapped Ghattas with a travel ban until investigations are concluded. As an MK, however, he will still be allowed to attend assembly votes.

2016.12.23 / 17:48
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