Balad MK Basel Ghattas was convicted as part of a plea-bargain deal on Wednesday by the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court of smuggling cellphones to security prisoners in Ketziot Prison in the Negev.
Both Ghattas and the prosecution told the court that they agreed to a two-year jail sentence as part of the deal they cut last week, but they debated whether Ghattas should be fined and whether the court should find that his actions constituted moral turpitude.
The prosecution argued that he should be fined NIS 100,000-NIS 200,000. Ghattas’s lawyer Avigdor Feldman said there should be no fine and that while aspects of a finding of moral turpitude seemed to apply, he needed to study whether the loss of certain financial benefits of being a Knesset member were legally justified.
A finding of moral turpitude would block Ghattas from public service for seven years after completing his sentence as well as cancel various financial benefits.
The court’s decision on sentencing was set for April 9.
Ghattas continued to maintain 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” (though he did not identify what those humanitarian reasons were) and not to participate in any actions that could endanger lives.
The hearing was only able to go forward after the High Court of Justice rejected a petition by a group of rightwing activists to block the plea bargain and require a trial or harsher punishment of Ghattas.
The case has ratcheted up tension between the Balad party (one of four that make up the Joint List) 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 at a gas station on Route 6 and gave the items to him to smuggle into his brother Walid Daka and another security prisoner, Basil Bizra, knowing that 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.
Bizra is serving a 15-year sentence for terrorism-related activities.
Police arrested Asad Daka, who owns a cafe in Baka al-Gharbiya, east of Hadera, in late December.