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Man who poured hot tea on MK Tibi to be taken to psychiatric evaluation
By JPOST.COM STAFF
20/12/2013
Suspect is mentally ill and had no intention to harm anyone, lawyer says; Tibi: There's wild incitement against Arab MKs.
 
The Beersheba Magistrate's Court indicted 48-year-old Tzion Vaknin on Friday after he poured hot tea on UAL-Ta’al MK Ahmed Tibi at a rally against the Prawer-Begin bill a day before, and sent him to psychiatric evaluation.

The court also extended Vaknin's remand until the conclusion of proceedings against him.

The suspect's lawyer said Vaknin had no intention to harm anyone, and that the attack had no racist or national motives.

"[Vaknin] is mentally ill and needs to be sent to psychiatric evaluation," said attorney Tal Arad of the Public Defender's Office.

"This is a man who doesn't even know who it was that he hurt, everything that happened was a result of him being a sick man," Arad added.

Arad said Vaknin spent 20 years in prison in the past and was treated by a psychiatrist.

Tibi, who was lightly injured in the incident, told Israel Radio on Friday morning that there is "wild incitement" against Arab MKs who oppose the bill, both inside the Knesset and outside of it.

"When there is incitement, there are those who heed its call, and I am now under death threats," he said.

The Negev police said Vaknin is not known to the police and is not a known activist. They say that they believe that the act was not planned and that Vaknin happened to be passing the protest. He became irritated and took out his anger on Tibi.

Tibi vowed that he will continue speaking up against the bill, which is meant to regulate Beduin settlement in the Negev.

The Prawer-Begin bill is a five-year economic development initiative seeking to regulate Beduin settlement in the South, by aiming for a compromise solution for tens of thousands of Beduin scattered in unrecognized villages throughout the Negev and legalizing 63 percent of claimed land.

Beduin supporters oppose the bill because they say the legislation would result in up to 40,000 Beduin losing their land. They recently held a protest against the plan that turned violent.

Opponents on the Right criticize the bill as too generous, saying the state would be giving away land for free that Beduin could not prove to be theirs in court.

Last week, former minister Benny Begin said he is suspending the plan, after being accused of giving inconsistent reports on the Beduin response to it.

The Knesset Interior Committee plans to continue holding hearings on the Prawer Plan and Coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu) said the bill that was under consideration requires changes and a detailed map needs to be included in any plan, delineating exactly what land the Beduin and Jews would receive.

Yasser Okbi, Lahav Harkov and Ariel Ben Solomon contributed to this report.
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