Arab-Israeli lawmaker gets light sentence of small fines for scuffle with protester

Hadash MK Barakei attacked a right-wing demonstrator eight years ago; sentence considered very light.

Muhmmad Barakei 311 (photo credit: Knesset Web site )
Muhmmad Barakei 311
(photo credit: Knesset Web site )
The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Thursday fined Hadash MK Muhammad Barakei NIS 400 and also ordered him to pay NIS 250 in compensation to Yitzhak Hananyah, a right-wing demonstrator whom he was convicted of attacking during a protest eight years ago.
Convicted in March, the sentence was considered extremely light and did not include some harsher aspects requested by the prosecution.
The lawmaker was 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.
The two charges related to allegations that Barakei tried to help break a Palestinian out of custody, who had been arrested during a 2005 Bil’in protest, and that he struck a counterprotester who was verbally accosting another demonstrator at Rabin Square in 2006.
Originally, Barakei was accused of four charges, but the other two charges – which involved forms of expression, including alleged verbal sparring with police – were dropped in October 2011 based on his immunity for voicing dissent as a Knesset member.
Following that decision, the court ruled in November 2012 that Barakei would be brought to trial on the other two charges as they did not fall under the immunities granted to an MK.
The Bil’in protest was part of a series of regular protests against the West Bank security barrier. The Rabin Square demonstration was an antiwar protest during the Second Lebanon War.
Barakei said the allegations against him regarding the Bil’in incident were impossible, since he was injured by a stun grenade and evacuated by an ambulance.
He said that one of the earlier witnesses against him in the case had misidentified him as short, a characterization his appearance openly contradicted. In cross-examination, the state tried to get Barakei to admit that a number of the soldiers had correctly identified him, despite a mix-up by the witness who called him short.
Responding to the allegations against him in the Rabin Square incident, the Hadash MK claimed that at the time his elbows were locked with other demonstrators on both sides and that he would not have physically been able to hit anyone.
On the prosecution’s side, Hananyah accused Barakei of elbowing him even though he had locked his elbows with other demonstrators.
Hananya said that Barakei attacked him, because of the witness’s verbal assault on peace activist Shlomo Avineri.
Barakei said that the “claims are absolutely false” and said his role as a parliamentarian was not to sit in an “ivory tower,” but to be involved in the country’s ideological debates.
After the conviction, Barakei said the verdict “proved what we said at first, that this was a political trial against the activities and positions of a member of the Knesset.”