MK Basel Ghattas.
(photo credit: KOKO/POOL ISRAEL HAYOM)
Former Balad MK Basel Ghattas was released from prison on Monday, having served most of a two-year prison sentence for smuggling phones to jailed terrorists.
A party was hosted at a Greek Orthodox church in Ramallah in honor of Ghattas’s release, with former MK Haneen Zoabi in attendance.
Ghattas said he did not regret his actions as he was only trying to help prisoners call their families.
Throughout the 2017 hearings and conviction, Ghattas maintained that his confession to the indictment was only a confession to the act of smuggling the cellphones. He continued to claim that he was smuggling the cellphones for “humanitarian reasons” and not to participate in any actions that could endanger lives.
At the time, the case ratcheted up tension between the Israeli-Arab Balad Party and authorities over whether Ghattas committed a serious security offense, or was being persecuted by law enforcement as part of a crackdown on loud politicians among the country’s Arab minority.
A related indictment against Asad Daka, Ghattas’s handler, said that Daka asked Ghattas to help smuggle items into the prison, relying on the MK’s parliamentary immunity from being searched when visiting prisoners.
Daka met with Ghattas on December 18, 2016, at a gas station on Route 6 and gave over the items to smuggle to his brother Walid Daka and another security prisoner, Basil Bizra, knowing that it would endanger lives and national security.
Ghattas visited Walid Daka, delivering various documents for him to smuggle within the prison. He then met with Bizra and gave him cellphones and SIM cards to smuggle.
Both Walid Daka and Bizra were caught after their meetings with Ghattas during a standard search, which led to the allegations against Ghattas.