A-G to court: Keep Tarif out of Knesset

Salah Tarif, the first Druse ever to serve as a minister, may be barred from rejoining the Knesset because of a crime he committed in 1999, even though he is in line to replace retired Labor MK Avraham Shochat. According to the law, a person who has been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude may not serve as an MK for seven years from the day of his conviction. On December 30, 2003, Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court convicted Tarif of bribery, fraud and breach of trust for having bribed an Interior Ministry official to grant Israeli citizenship to a Palestinian friend, Hosni Badiran. Tarif gave an envelope containing $2,000 to Population Registry director Raphael Cohen at a meeting point on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway in December 1999, when Tarif was serving as head of the Knesset House Committee. A panel of three judges sentenced him to six months' community service, 19 months on probation and a fine of NIS 25,000. Tarif appealed the conviction and sentence to the Tel Aviv District Court. In its ruling, the magistrate's court did not specify whether the crimes Tarif committed involved moral turpitude. The law does not define what "moral turpitude" is and courts usually do not specify whether a particular crime is of such a nature. However, according to the Basic Law: Knesset, in the case of MKs, the court may determine at its own initiative or at the request of the Attorney-General whether a specific crime involves moral turpitude. On Monday, in response to a letter by MK Reshef Chen, Mazuz wrote that when the court rules on Tarif's appeal it should also determine whether the crimes for which he was convicted, if the conviction still stands, involved moral turpitude or not. Mazuz told Chen he would ask the court to "rule that, regarding the crimes for which Tarif was convicted, given their nature and circumstances, there is moral turpitude." However, until the district court rules on Tarif's appeal and the Attorney-General's request, the law does not prevent Tarif from replacing Shochat in the Knesset.