|Photo by: Ariel Jerozolimski [file]|
Balad MK's trial for illegal trip to Syria begins
By JOANNA PARASZCZUK
Said Nafa contacted enemy agents, members of terror groups in Syria, indictment charges.
The Nazareth District Court convened a preliminary hearing on Monday in the
criminal case against Balad MK Said Nafa.
In December, the Northern
District Attorney’s Office served an indictment in the Nazareth District Court
charging Nafa with contacting terrorist organizations during an illegal trip to
Syria. By law, Israelis may only visit enemy states if they receive permission
from the interior minister.
During the short hearing, prosecuting
attorneys Yael Kohavi and Raz Walther submitted an amended indictment detailing
the organization Nafa is alleged to have met in Syria as the Popular Front for
the Liberation of Palestine – General Command.
After Nafa’s attorneys did
not raise objections to the amended indictment, Deputy Court President Tawfic
Kteily, Judge Danny Sarfati and Judge Asher Kula ruled that Nafa will be
formally arraigned on April 29.
According to the indictment filed in
December, in 2007 Nafa arranged a trip to Syria for himself and 282 other Druse
Israelis without government permission, where he allegedly met with leaders of
the PFLP and tried to meet with Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal.
indictment alleges that in July 2007 Nafa contacted the Interior Ministry to
request travel permits to Syria for himself and a group of Druse Israelis, but
the ministry refused the request, citing security concerns.
refusal, in September 2007 Nafa allegedly contacted a group of eight Druse
clergymen and asked them to arrange for him to travel to Syria with a group of
Druse religious leaders. Nafa received a list of the names of those wishing to
travel to Syria, the indictment alleges, which included former Balad chairman
and MK Azmi Bishara.
Bishara, who fled Israel in 2007, is wanted for
questioning by police over suspicions that he aided and passed information to
the enemy, including during the Second Lebanon War.
According to the
indictment filed against Nafa, once in Jordan, he and Bishara allegedly obtained
travel permits to Syria from the Syrian Embassy.
Nafa is alleged to have
visited Syria between September 6 and 13, 2007.
Nafa is also charged in
the indictment with contacting enemy agents and members of illegal terrorist
groups during his stay in Syria. While in Damascus, Nafa allegedly met with a
man named Nihad Malkhem, who arranged a meeting between him and Talal Naji,
deputy secretarygeneral of the PFLP.
The indictment further charges that
Nafa tried to secretly make contact with Mashaal during Nafa’s alleged meeting
with Malkhem. Naji telephoned Mashaal, and arranged a meeting for the next
morning. It is alleged that Naji referred to Mashaal by the nickname Abu
al-Walid and told him that “a Balad party MK” would attend a meeting with him
the next day. Naji also allegedly told Mashaal Nihad Malkhem’s name.
indictment alleges that Nafa knew Mashaal’s nickname is Abu al-Walid and that he
was interested in meeting the Hamas leader.
The next day, according to
the indictment, a colleague of Mashaal’s came to Nafa’s hotel in Damascus and
drove Nafa to meet Mashaal as planned.
Malkhem allegedly refused to
accompany the pair, but the indictment charges that Nafa went to Mashaal’s
office, where he received a gift.
The indictment against Nafa comes after
Knesset’s House Committee denied Nafa’s request in January 2010 for
parliamentary immunity from prosecution, a move that allowed state prosecutors
to file charges against him.
That decision was made after
then-attorney-general Menahem Mazuz announced in December 2009 that Nafa would
be indicted for violating both the Penal Code and the Emergency Defense
Regulations by visiting Syria without permission and for allegedly meeting with
Naji and Mashaal.
Nafa, who denies meeting PFLP and Hamas members,
slammed the indictment against him as “outrageous discrimination,” and said
thousands of Israeli civilians have visited Syria without being
A separate indictment was filed in the Nazareth Magistrate’s
Court, charging 16 other Israelis who allegedly accompanied Nafa on the trip
with traveling to an enemy country, conspiracy to commit a crime and assisting
with a visit to an enemy country.