Joint List MK Basel Ghattas was arrested on Thursday evening on suspicion of smuggling cell phones to Palestinian terrorists serving sentences in Israeli prisons. He will be brought in front of a judge on Friday morning.
He is facing charges of conspiring to commit a crime, fraud, breach of trust, and violations of Israel Prisons Service orders.
A statement on behalf of Ghattas said that "Never has the attorney general submitted a request to revoke parliamentary immunity from arrests and searches, and never was a public figure, an MK, was arrested in this way. MK Ghattas has arrived for questioning as required and has answered all of the questions.
"This is a vengeful and arbitrary arrest, because the police, (Prime Minister) Netanyahu and (Public Security) Minister Erdan want a photo of an Arab MK in handcuffs. The arrest is a political move and is not necessary to the investigation. Fairness obligates to treat an Arab public representative just like a Jewish one, and that is not the situation here."
The Knesset's House Committee on Wednesday approved Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit's request to strip Ghattas of his Knesset immunity. Police could not arrest Ghattas before his immunity was lifted.
The attorney general wrote that “after MK Ghattas passed envelopes to a security prisoner in jail, and after the security prisoner attempted to conceal the envelopes on his person, the envelopes were confiscated by the prison service, whereupon 12 cell phones and 16 SIM cards, two cell phone batteries, and headphones were found.”
Mandelblit said that Ghattas denied passing anything to the prisoner. It was only after he was shown security camera footage of himself passing the envelope to the prisoner that the MK admitted to his deeds. However, he claims that he had no idea what was in the envelopes, and claims that he was only giving the prisoner political literature.
In response to the committee's decision, the Arab MK wrote to the Knesset speaker, saying that the steps taken against him are unprecedented. “(The attorney general) asked the committee to remove my immunity from search and arrest, something that the attorney general has never asked any other MK to do. This includes cases whereby MKs were being investigated for crimes such as corruption, rape, and even worse allegations.”
“There is no doubt that this extreme step’s timing and nature is being done in conjunction with the harsh voices coming from the Knesset House Committee, which casts serious concern on the attorney general’s double standards,” MK Ghattas continued.
He accused the House Committee of being "militant and political as was expected, and didn’t focus on the issue."