After a number of Knesset members urged Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman to address allegations that an Australian national committed suicide in an Israeli prison, thereby blowing the cover off the "Prisoner X" affair, the issue of parliamentary immunity upon revealing State secrets has become a sensitive matter.
Knesset Legal Advisor Eyal Yinon determined Monday that Knesset members cannot disclose state secrets to the Knesset plenum and then utilize their parliamentary immunity.
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Immunity for revealing State secrets would be applied to an MK if he or she spoke without preplanning, "in the heat of an argument or in response to things said," Yinon said, but "preplanning a statement - that is in fact a felony that cannot be protected by immunity and a member of Knesset can be prosecuted for the said felony, as can any other person."
Yinon issued his evaluation following the occurrences in the Israeli parliament last week, as the "Prisoner X" affair, which had been under gag order, was exposed by the inquiries of MKs Zahava Gal-On and Ahmad Tibi, which were broadcast live on Israeli television.
According to the Knesset advisor, "The Knesset plenum and committees are not arraignment-proof. The fact that the felonious statement was said in the Knesset does not mean that it automatically grants immunity."
Yinon added that a Knesset member who wishes to clarify issues under gag order should motion the relevant minister or committee chairperson to hold a covert meeting on the issue, or approach the authorities.
The decision whether to interrogate or sue an MK is under the jurisdiction of the attorney general.
The legal advisor stressed that "Political statements are a key component of an MK's job," adding that immunity was instated in order to allow members of parliament the freedom to pursue their position the best they can, but that MKs must nevertheless use their discretion to avoid causing harm to the public or to the Knesset.
"Certain statements were rendered forbidden so as to protect other important interests. The legislator thus determined, for example, that incitement to racism, violence or terror, revealing secret information, slander, breach of gag order etc. are expressions that may be libel, under certain conditions, to criminal prosecution," the Knesset legal advisor noted.