Former Arab lawmaker begins two year prison sentence

4 Jul

Basel Ghattas, a former member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) under arrest.

Palestine Chronicle, 2 July 2017

After being convicted in an Israeli court in March on a number of charges related to his smuggling phones to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody, now resigned Knesset member Basel Ghattas entered the first day of a two-year-prison sentence on Sunday.

In a statement outside of Israel’s Gilboa prison, Ghattas, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, said he “acted for humanitarian reasons and on behalf of the prisoners,” Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

“In the past two months I have enjoyed time with my family and with many of my people and supporters, who have given me great strength ahead of this time – which is, of course, a difficult time on a personal level. At a later stage I intend to demand that my punishment be eased. I hope this demand will be met and that I will not serve the full term.”

Arriving outside the prison, Jamal Zahalka, who, as was Ghattas, is a member of the Joint List coalition that represents Palestinian citizens of Israel at the Knesset, lauded Ghattas for “exposing the issue of political prisoners. He exposed the problem that is always in the backyard of everyday public discourse and that is important in and of itself,” Israeli news site Ynet quoted him as saying.

“We don’t want to smuggle cellphones,” Zahalka continued. “Our issue is that prisoners are given the right to use public cellphones like any other prisoner.”

Any correspondence with Palestinian prisoners – numbered at some 6,200 – can be considered an act against the security of the state of Israel, making it dangerous for both Palestinian citizens of Israel and those holding Jerusalem permits to engage with Palestinians held by Israel.

FOOT NOTE: Ghattas was aboard the ‘Marianne’ on the international Freedom Flotilla 111 to break Israel’s blockade on Gaza in 2015, alongside a MaoriTV film crew facilitated by Kia Ora Gaza.

The photo shows Ghattas as the ‘Marianne’ was being hijacked by Israel naval vessels in international waters off the coast of Gaza.

 

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