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Israel 'overreacting' as prominent opposition MK given house arrest Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Israel 'overreacting' as prominent opposition MK given house arrest

Basel Ghattas has denied accusations of smuggling phones for prisoners [AFP]

Date of publication: 28 December, 2016

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Israeli authorities have been accused of deliberate anti-Palestinian incitement as Basel Ghattas' phone smuggling allegations prompted ridicule and censure, including from Israeli commentators
Israeli authorities have been accused of deliberate anti-Palestinian incitement and overreaction as the Basel Ghattas affair continues to reverberate.
The Israeli authorities on Tuesday placed the Palestinian-Israeli Knesset member, who was accused of smuggling mobile phones to Palestinian prisoners, under house arrest, following an order from an Israeli judge.

He was also barred from voting in the Knesset. 

Since his arrest on December 23, Ghattas has been interrogated by investigators who say they have evidence that Ghattas smuggled in the prohibited items.

The lawmaker has routinely defended his innocence, describing his arrest as political persecution. As a member of the Palestinian-Israeli party, Balad, Ghattas has frequently fought with the Israeli government.

"We are used to these kinds of investigations and attempts to criminalise, which are designed to de-legitimise our work," Ghattas said earlier.

The Balad Party has been targeted numerous times this year by Israeli authorities, who repeatedly tried to ban it under various claims, including supporting "terrorism".

The Balad Party has been targeted numerous times this year by Israeli authorities, who repeatedly tried to ban it under various claims, including supporting "terrorism".

Its three MKs caused outrage among Jewish Israelis earlier this year when they met relatives of Palestinians who authorities say were killed while carrying out attacks.

More than 20 Balad officials were also arrested in September, after accusations of fraud, money laundering, and illegal use of party funds that their supporters say are fabricated.

Ghattas' arrest is seen by many among Israel's Palestinian opposition groups as the most recent case in a continued campaign aimed at suppressing their political voice.

Investigations into Ghattas are being pursued vigorously by Israeli authorities and the MK could face a number of serious charges if found guilty. This includes conspiracy to commit a crime, fraud, breach of trust and providing material assistance to a terrorist organisation.

The accusations against the MK have been ridiculed by Israeli left-wing commentators as a deliberately exagerrated episode of ultranationalist incitement by ruling right-wing politicians.

Amira Hass recently even questioned whether cell phones actually posed a threat to security in Israeli prisons in a Haaretz comment piece, accusing the authorities of overreacting.

The news comes as Israel, much to the amusement of its international critics, has further isolated itself in an outburst of fury at the UN's recent vote in favour of resolution calling for settlement activity to halt.

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