Hadash MK Muhammad Barakei testified on Sunday for the first time in the trial
against him over two separate alleged altercations, one during a 2005
demonstration in Bil’in and another in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square in
The day marked the beginning of the defense’s presentation of the
“This is a political crusade, [and] we will overcome it,” Barakei
said prior to the start of the proceedings, adding that it is “incumbent on all
of us to actualize our rights to protest and speak out against the destructive
policies of the government.”
The two charges relate to allegations that
Barakei tried to help break out of custody a Palestinian who had been arrested
during a 2005 Bil’in protest and that he struck a counter-protester who was
verbally accosting another demonstrator at Kikar Rabin in
Originally, Barakei was accused of four separate charges, but the
other two charges – which involved forms of expression, including alleged verbal
sparring with police – were dropped in October 2011 based on his immunity for
voicing dissent as a Knesset member.
Following that decision, the court
ruled in November that Barakei would be brought to trial on the other two
charges as they did not fall under the immunities granted to a Knesset
In previous hearings, the prosecution already presented its case
and its witnesses were already cross-examined.
The Bil’in protest was
part of a series of regular protests against the West Bank security barrier. The
Kikar Rabin demonstration was an anti-war protest during the Second Lebanon
Challenging the allegations against him regarding the Bil’in
incident, Barakei said that he was injured by a stun grenade and evacuated by an
According to the Hadash MK, it made no sense to assert that he
was involved in any kind of offensive to release arrested Palestinians when he
himself had been injured and removed from the scene.
He also said that
one of the earlier witnesses against him in the case had misidentified him as short, an
characterization his appearance openly contradicted. In cross-examination, the
state tried to get Barakei to admit that a number of the soldiers had correctly
identified him, despite a mix-up by the witness who called him
Yael Berda, who was protesting with Barakei and is another witness
for the defense, said that his injury from the stun grenade precluded him from
having been involved in the alleged altercation with the soldiers arresting
In cross-examination, the state tried to show that Barakei
might have been involved in the alleged altercation before he was hit by the
Responding to the allegations against him in the Kikar
Rabin incident, Barakei said that the incident never occurred.
MK claimed that at the time his elbows were locked with other demonstrators on
both sides and that he would not have physically been able to hit
On the prosecution’s side, the witness accusing Barakei of
striking him said that he elbowed him even though he had locked his elbows with
The witness said that Barakei attacked him because
of the witness’s verbal assault on peace activist Shlomo Avineri.
said that the “claims are absolutely false” and were collected against a “public
personality because of his ideas.... There is a limit to
Explaining his involvement in the protests, he said his role
as a parliamentarian was not to sit in an “ivory tower,” but to be involved in
the country’s ideological debates.
During the cross-examination, the
prosecution tried to highlight alleged incidents in which Barakei’s statements
or actions were meant to provoke segments of Israeli society. The state also
tried to undermine Barakei’s accusations against others of provocations,
claiming instead that he was a provocateur.
Pressed to explain some
allegedly disrespectful conduct to the police while he was being questioned,
Barakei said that he related “to the investigation as a provocation to mar [his]
“I think that this indictment, based on what I say and what
the other witnesses say, is an indictment that would not have been filed against
other Knesset members,” the Hadash MK continued.
He suggested that some
right-wing MKs had done far worse during protests against the disengagement from
Gaza in 2005.
Barakei alleged that there was bias in this regard, in that
those MKs had been specially forgiven by a unique law pardoning conduct during
disengagement demonstrations that otherwise could have led to criminal
He also accused the prosecution of negligence in filing the
action against him.
The trial will continue on January 20. Barakeh
has been an MK since 1999.