Israeli Arab lawmaker to be indicted in phone smuggling case

2 min

Jerusalem (AFP)

Israel's attorney general has given his approval for an indictment against an Arab Israeli lawmaker accused of smuggling mobile phones to Palestinian prisoners, the justice ministry said Thursday.

Basel Ghattas of the Joint List, a coalition of Arab Israeli parties, was detained last month and has been under house arrest since December 27 until a court released him from house arrest later Thursday.

He is to be charged with the use of property for terrorist purposes and breach of public trust, among other accusations, the ministry said in a statement.

Israeli media have reported that 12 mobile phones were found on two separate prisoners in searches after the 60-year-old parliament member visited.

One of the prisoners is serving time for the kidnapping and murder of an Israeli soldier in 1984, news site Ynet reported.

Ghattas is suspected of using his parliamentary immunity to avoid being searched in order to smuggle in the phones.

In a recorded message to Channel 10 television, Ghattas accused the police of attempting to contaminate the legal process by leaking to the media details of the investigation.

Ghattas reiterated he had not handed telephones or any other form of communication. "Everything I gave was printed material, for humanitarian reasons," he said on Thursday.

Arab lawmakers from the Joint List, the third largest force in parliament with 13 seats, frequently clash with Israel's leaders.

Arab Israelis make up some 17.5 percent of the country's population, and are descended from Palestinians who remained on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948.