(photo credit: KNESSET)
The Tel Aviv District Court on Monday ordered the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court to review its decision convicting Hadash MK Muhammad Barakei for attacking a rightwing demonstrator during a protest eight years ago. The review aims to determine whether the MK may have had parliamentary immunity, according to an NGO representing him.
Barakei was convicted in March, but according to Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, a three-judge panel of Devorah Berliner, George Kra, and Miriam Sokolov found that the lower court had failed to establish why Barakei’s acts were not covered by his parliamentary immunity.
Adalah argued that there is legal precedent for parliamentary immunity for MKs like Barakei for low-level tussles in the context of protests.
According to the lower court’s verdict, when a soldier was arresting one of the protesters, Barakei choked him with his right hand and struck the soldier’s hands with his left, while shouting to nearby demonstrators, “Free him, free him.”
For this, he was charged with assaulting a person performing a duty or function assigned to him by law, a felony that carries a maximum five-year sentence.
Barakei said the verdict “proved what we said at first, that this was a political trial against the activities and positions of a member of the Knesset,” and vowed to appeal.
Hassan Jabareen, Barakei’s lawyer and director of Adalah, said this is “the first time that the prosecutor filed an indictment against an MK for something at a demonstration.”
Jabareen said that many rightwing MKs participated in demonstrations and behaved illegally, such as those during the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but none of them was issued with an indictment.
The court canceled three of the charges and left the most minor one,” said Jabareen, saying that behind these charges is a policy of discrimination and lack of “respect for equality before the rule of law.”
All the charges should have all been dismissed because of immunity granted to MKs, but in the end only two were dismissed on this basis, he said. In addition, “Barakei himself was injured and filed a complaint, but this matter was not dealt with,” Jabereen said.
Ariel Ben Solomon contributed to this report.