MK Ghattas indicted after smuggling of cellphones to terrorists in prison
Indictment charges the Arab MK with unlawfully bringing documents and communication devices into the prison, fraud and breach of trust, use of property for purposes of terrorism and fraudulently obtaining benefits under aggravated circumstances.
MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List) was indicted on Thursday for smuggling cellphones to Palestinian security prisoners in Israel jails.
The offenses Ghattas will be charged with are: Bringing in documents not through the prison administration, bringing in communication devices, use of property for purposes of terrorism, fraud and breach of trust by a public worker, fraudulently obtaining benefits under aggravated circumstances.
The indictment points to the ties between Ghattas and terrorist Walid Daka—who is serving a life sentence since 1984 for his involvement in the murder of IDF soldier Moshe Tamam—and with prisoner Basel Bizra, a Fatah member.
"The defendant conspired with Walid Daka, Bizra, and Daka's brother Assad to bring cellphones into the prison and deliver them to Bizra so he could deliver them to Daka and other security prisoners," the indictment states.
According to the indictment, "Walid contacted Ghattas from prison using a cellphone that was brought into the prison without authorization and was unlawfully kept by Walid. As part of the aforementioned ties and to promote said ties, the defendant asked to visit Walid and Bizra in prison. His declared reason for visiting was hearing the prisoners' complaints over the conditions of their imprisonment and trying to find out if there is an option to ease their conditions."
The indictment describes the December 18, 2016 meeting between Ghattas and Walid Daka's brother, Assad, in which the Joint List MK received packages meant for the prisoners. "The defendant received at the gas station Dor Alon-North on Highway 6 from Assad four packages containing: 12 cellphones, 16 SIM cards, two charges and an earpiece."
Later that day, at 11:55am, Ghattas arrived at Ktzi'ot Prison, where Walid Daka is serving his sentence. "The defendant entered the prison while carrying the packages that were hidden under his shirt, as well as other documents," the indictment stated.
"When the defendant entered the prison, he passed through the metal detector, which went off. The defendant then claimed to the prison guard that the detector's alert was caused by his belt buckle. When the guard asked the defendant to go through the metal detector again without his belt on, the defendant refused to do so and told the guard that he has immunity from being searched because he is an MK. Due to that, the guard avoided searching him," according to the indictment.
Shortly thereafter, Ghattas met with prisoner Walid Daka. "When the defendant and Walid were alone in the room, the defendant gave Walid documents. Walid folded the documents and put them in his pants. When Walid left the room, the prison guards searched him and found the documents."
The indictment also describes another meeting with prisoner Basel Bizra. "At 1:35pm, the defendant met with Bizra. When they were both alone in the room, the defendant unbuttoned his shirt and removed from under it the packages with the communications equipment and then gave them to Bizra. Bizra put the packages down his pants ... When Bizra left the room, the prison guards searched him and found the equipment."
The indictment went on to state that "The defendant delivered the communications equipment to Bizra while knowing that it is more than likely the equipment will be used to endanger human lives, cause serious harm to people, undermine state security, or to aid a terror organization."
Ghattas will be brought in front of a judge on Thursday for a remand extension of his house arrest and of the restrictive conditions placed on him.
In the wake of the investigation launched against him, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein revoked Ghattas's parliamentary immunity to allow the police to arrest him and search his home and office.
He spent several days in police custody, following which he was put on house arrest.
Ghattas claimed he did not know what the envelopes he gave prisoners contained.
On Monday, the Knesset's Ethics Committee barred Ghattas of parliamentary activity for the next six months. The MK will not be able to speak at committees or at the plenum and will not be allowed to submit bill proposals, but will still be able to vote and get paid.
The committee dubbed Ghattas's actions a "severe ethical breach," while Ghattas dubbed the decision "vindictive."