Palestinian lawmaker released from prison after two-year sentence

Nazareth (QNN) – Former Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, Basel Ghattas, was released from prison today after serving two years for smuggling cellphones to Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails.

Although his family was told that he would be released from Megiddo Prison at 10 a.m., an Israeli Prison Service vehicle dropped him off in Afula, northern occupied Palestine, in the early morning hours, most likely to prevent a public reception.

Ghattas’ conviction came as part of a plea bargain that led to his resignation from the Knesset, after he confessed to part of the charges against him involving the smuggling of cellphones to political prisoners in Ketziot Prison. Palestinian prisoner Walid Daka, who was documented accepting the phones from Ghattas, was also charged in the case. Ghattas was sentenced to two years time served, 18 months on probation, a NIS 120,000 fine as well as a moral turpitude charge. He was brought to Gilboa Prison in July 2017.

During his imprisonment, the IPS decided to transfer Ghattas to at least four different prisons with no prior notice. He was originally slated to serve at a prison in the north, given that his family lives in the Galilee. Unlike ordinary prisoners, visitation rights for political prisoners are stricter: only immediate family members can visit for 45 minutes at a time once every two weeks.

After serving a third of his sentence, Ghattas approached IPS’s parole board with a request to have his sentence reduced. The board rejected his request, claiming that Ghattas hasn’t undergone a “rehabilitation process” in prison.

Ghattas then appealed in court, but the IPS insisted that he is classified as a member of the proscribed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – a classification he has denied – and therefore could not undergo rehabilitation. A Be’er Sheva court rejected his appeal.

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