Phone-smuggling Arab Israeli legislator to be charged

Jerusalem, Jan 5 (IANS) Israel’s attorney general on Thursday approved the indictment of Arab-Israeli legislator Basel Ghattas for allegedly smuggling mobile phones into a Palestinian security prison.

A statement released on behalf of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said that an indictment will be submitted in the coming days, Xinhua news agency reported.

The statement said that Ghattas, on December 18, arrived at southern Israel’s Ktzi’ot prison, carrying 12 cellphones and 16 SIM cards hidden underneath his clothes.

Inside the prison, he allegedly delivered the equipment to Walid Daka, who is serving a life sentence for murdering an Israeli soldier in 1984 and belongs to the Palestinian Popular Front, said the report.

Ghattas was questioned by the police about two weeks ago and arrested last week after his parliamentary immunity was lifted. He is under house arrest while the police investigates the suspicions against him.

Attorney Namir Adalbi, representing Ghattas, said the quick indictment verdict, even before it was served, was “an attempt to pressure the court… to extend Ghattas’s house arrest.”

“We agreed to the removal of immunity solely for investigative purposes, but that doesn’t rule out the option that we’ll claim immunity over the indictment,” Adalbi said.

Ghattas is a legislator with Balad, an Arab nationalist party that frequently challenges the Israeli establishment over Palestinian issues.