(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Balad MKs Azmi Bishara and Wasil Taha were questioned Thursday by the police's International and Serious Crimes Unit regarding allegations that they broke the law when they visited enemy states starting September 14. Bishara said that the questioning was "relevant and polite," but both lawmakers slammed Israeli politicians for "failing to understand" the potential benefit of their recent visit to Lebanon and Syria.
On Wednesday, Balad legislator Jamal Zahalka and former MK Muhammad Kana'an were questioned about their participation in the same trip. Former MK Muhammad Miari also made the journey.
The five are all suspected of violating a 2001 law forbidding political officials from traveling to enemy states. Taha said Thursday that the legislation was unconstitutional and violated MK's basic rights.
"Instead of taking advantage of our connections with Syria, we are being investigated," Taha said Thursday. Bishara said the prime minister should have asked him about his impressions, rather than police investigators. "Only we meet the political conditions to meet with [Syrian President Bashar] Assad," Bishara said.
"I am not sorry that we traveled [to Syria and Lebanon]. If the need arises, I will do it again. We don't go on vacations like other MKs, who take advantage of their status to travel overseas. We do it because we think that it is important, these are visits during times of tension. Any normal country would appreciate this, because it creates dialogue," he said.
Last Sunday, Attorney General Menahem Mazuz said he was opening an investigation into the trip, which was conducted without permission from the Interior Ministry or the prime minister.
Bishara said Mazuz "gave in to public pressure when he decided to try us for the visit," and that certain politicians were acting out of "base political" motives by insisting that the five be investigated.