Israel extends MP's remand in prison phone smuggling case

Basel Ghattas

TEL AVIV - An Israeli court extended by four days the remand of an Arab lawmaker arrested after his immunity was lifted for sneaking cellphones to Palestinian high-security prisoners, police said on Friday.
Basel Ghattas of the Joint List, a coalition of Arab Israeli parties, was "questioned under warning last night for the second time and arrested at the end of the investigation," a police statement read.
On Friday, "the Rishon LeZion magistrates' court extended the remand of (Ghattas) by four days, until December 26," police said.
Ghattas is suspected of "passing phones and SIM cards to security prisoners," police said.
The 60-year-old Ghattas said on Thursday he would accept his parliamentary immunity being lifted shortly before a planned vote in the Knesset on the issue.
Israeli media reported that 12 mobile phones were found on two separate prisoners in searches after Ghattas visited Ktziot prison in the Negev desert.
One of the prisoners is serving time for the kidnapping and murder of an Israeli soldier in 1984, news site Ynet reported.
As an MP, Ghattas is suspected of using parliamentary immunity to elude searches and smuggle the mobile phones into the prison.
Arab lawmakers from the Joint List, the third largest force in parliament with 13 seats, frequently clash with Israel's leaders.
Arab Israelis, who make up some 17.5 percent of the country's population, are the descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948.
They hold Israeli citizenship, but largely see themselves as Palestinians.
On Wednesday, parliament decided to restrict visits by deputies to high security prisoners.