Israel places MP under house arrest in phone smuggling case

Basel Ghattas

TEL AVIV - An Arab Israeli lawmaker was placed under house arrest Tuesday over accusations he smuggled mobile phones to Palestinian prisoners, a case that has drawn outrage from the country's right-wing politicians.
Basel Ghattas of the Joint List, a coalition of Arab Israeli parties, appeared before a court in Rishon Lezion near Tel Aviv and was ordered to remain under house arrest for 10 days as the investigation continues, police said.
He has been barred from leaving Israel and cannot visit security detainees in prison for the next 180 days, according to police.
The 60-year-old was arrested on Thursday after being questioned about the accusations, which he denies. He has waived his parliamentary immunity, allowing the investigation to proceed.
Israeli media have reported that 12 mobile phones were found on two separate prisoners in searches after Ghattas visited.
One of the prisoners is serving time for the kidnapping and murder of an Israeli soldier in 1984, news site Ynet reported.
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.
They hold Israeli citizenship, but largely see themselves as Palestinians.
Balad, Ghattas's party, is especially critical of Israeli policies.
Its three parliamentarians triggered outrage among Jewish Israelis earlier this year when they met relatives of Palestinians who authorities say were killed while carrying out attacks.
In response, parliament passed a controversial law in July allowing the expulsion of lawmakers deemed guilty of racial incitement or supporting armed struggle against Israel.