(photo credit: KNESSET)
The Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday threw out the conviction of former Hadash MK Muhammad Barakei by the lower Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court for allegedly attacking a right-wing demonstrator during a protest some 10 years ago.
Barakei originally was convicted in March 2014, but on an appeal by Adalah - the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, a three-judge panel of Devorah Berliner, George Karra and Miriam Sokolov in December 2014 found that the lower court had declined to explain why Barakei’s acts were not covered by his parliamentary immunity.
Subsequently, the magistrate’s court explained its reasoning and stuck to its guns in convicting Barakei, leading to a second and final appeal by Adalah.
Adalah had argued from the start that there was legal precedent for parliamentary immunity for MKs like Barakei for low-level tussles in the context of protests.
The lawmaker already had been acquitted of the more serious charge of striking a soldier from an undercover unit during another demonstration against the West Bank security barrier in Bil’in, west of Ramallah, nine years ago.
When a soldier arrested one of the protesters, Barakei allegedly 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.
After the lower-court verdict, Barakei said it “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 many rightwing MKs participated in demonstrations and behaved illegally, such as during the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but none of them were issued an indictment.
“The court canceled three of the charges and left the most minor one,” Jabareen had argued, saying that behind these charges is a policy of discrimination and lack of “respect for equality before the rule of law.”
Ultimately, Jabareen’s efforts convinced the state to consent to the district court’s canceling of the rest of the charges, rather than engaging full-scale in another round of appeals arguments.
In voiding the conviction, the district court also noted that part of its decision related to around 10 years having passed since the incident and the fact that Barakei is no longer serving in the Knesset.
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