UPDATE:The Knesset Committee on Wednesday voted unanimously to recommend to the plenum to remove MK Basel Ghattas’ immunity. The committee may hold another session at 4 PM local time to allow for a second vote.
Following the confession of MK Basel Ghattas (Joint Arab List), who told police interrogators that he had smuggled cellular equipment as well as various documents to security prisoners at Ketziot Prison, AG Avichai Mandelblit approached Knesset Speaker uli Edelstein (Likud) with a request to remove the lawmaker’s immunity from prosecution. The change in Ghattas’ legal status would make it easier for law enforcement agencies to carry out their investigation.
The AG wrote the Speaker that his request is based on concrete suspicions on the part of police that MK Ghattas “handed the security prisoners at Ketziot, without permission, cellular phones and accompanying equipment, as well as documents, thus committing criminal offenses.”
Mandelblit assured Edelstein that the evidence against Ghattas “justifies the removal of his immunity,” and called it “urgent.” The AG noted that the MK’s immunity prevents investigators from searching his person, home, and belongings, as well as arresting him. Israel’s Channel 2 News noted that this likely means police will arrest the suspected MK as soon as his immunity is revoked.
The Knesset Committee, chaired by MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) is planning to debate the issue and vote on revoking Ghattas’ immunity in advance of his arrest and search. “I will conduct a debate on the topic and not an explosive contention,” Kisch told Channel 2 News. “The implications are serious and we will treat them accordingly.”
The committee debate will take place following a request from the AG.
MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) called on Ghattas to give up his immunity before it is revoked. “The crimes of which Ghattas is blamed are serious, and if he believes otherwise, he can prove it without his immunity as an MK.” Gilon made the point that revoking an MK’s immunity by the Knesset to facilitate a criminal investigation is different from a new bill, dubbed the Impeachment Law, to which the Meretz MK objects.
MK Ghattas will be allowed by law to appear at the Knesset Committee and argue his case, following which the committee would vote on whether or not it recommends a vote at the plenum on removing his immunity. Once the Knesset votes to remove, Ghattas will remain a full member of the House, except he could be searched, arrested, arraigned and indicted.JNi.Media