Rameh local council head Shawqi Abu Latif should be suspended due to his alleged involvement with criminal organizations and protection racketeering, the Attorney-General’s Office said in a Sunday letter to the Committee for Examination of Council Heads.
The request was filed because the accusations in the indictment filed against Abu Latif on August 14 cast a shadow on his integrity, and he should not be able to continue in the position, charged the Tel Aviv District Attorney’s Office.
"The seriousness of these offenses takes on new significance in view of the rising wave of crime and violence in Arab society, which law enforcement is required to deal with at this time, which includes many murders, damage to property, and the phenomenon of organized extortion by criminal organizations,” wrote the government attorneys.
“The involvement of the head of a local council, who holds governmental power, in crimes of extortion with threats constitutes a real state scourge, severely harming the public's trust in the integrity of the elected officials in the local government.”
Preying on local businesses, demanding fees
Abu Latif, 64, and his son, 24, served as operatives of a criminal organization. Police alleged that they preyed on local businesses, demanding protection fees.
The councilman’s son reportedly placed explosives at the entrance of the homes of those who needed to pay his father. He was also allegedly involved in several shooting incidents.
The arrest, indictment, and suspension of Abu Latif for criminal connections comes at a period of political turmoil for Arab majority local authorities and gangs, as well as the police's continuing struggle with protection racketeering.
On Tuesday night, local council presidential candidate Ghazi Saab was shot dead along with three other Druze men. This followed the Monday evening murder of Tira city manager Abed al-Rahman Kashu by a criminal organization. On Saturday, the Hadash Party announced that MK Ayman Odeh had received threats from criminal elements over his efforts against them.
Otzma Yehudit MK Almog Cohen praised the Northern District Attorney's Office on Sunday for filing an indictment against Rami Ismail Haib, a major protection racketeer, and a test case for new anti-extortion laws.
"The filing of the indictment constitutes significant progress in this case and will open a window for more complainants against blackmailers to eliminate the cursed phenomenon of protection [racketeering]," said Cohen. "Now the ball and the responsibility are in the court's court, when the citizens of the country from north to south raise their eyes to the judges in anticipation of a strict and clear ruling."
The Lahav 433 police unit on Sunday said it had made arrests for protection racketeering operations in Kibbutz Neve Ur after the arson of a solar farm caused an estimated NIS 1.5 million in damages to valuable equipment.
The fire was preceded by a smaller-scale act of arson two months ago, and a phone call warning "What happened yesterday is only the beginning."
The project manager and his family were threatened and told to pay a million shekels to a contractor who lost the tender to build the facility. Two suspects from Daliyat al-Carmel were arrested last Monday, and another resident was arrested on Thursday.