Arab-Israeli MK Defiant over Indictment for Incitement
Israel’s Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein decided on Friday to file two separate indictments against Arab Israeli MK Azmi Bishara, whose visits to neighboring Syria have raised politicians' hackles, reported Haaretz newspaper.
The first is for remarks made by Bishara on two separate occasions - at a rally in Umm al Fahm last June and at a memorial ceremony for the late Syrian president Hafez Assad in Damascus this summer - praising the Lebanese Hizbollah movement and encouraging others, especially the Palestinians, to emulate its military attacks on Israel. The draft indictment charges Bishara with “praising violence and supporting a terrorist organization,” in violation of the Prevention of Terror Ordinance, said the paper.
The second indictment is for organizing illegal trips to Syria for Israeli Arabs.
Although Bishara can legally travel to Syria with his diplomatic passport, it is against the law for ordinary citizens to visit a country with which Israel is at war without a special permit, under Israeli law.
Bishara, despite arguing that the visits were for a legitimate humanitarian purpose (allowing Israeli Arabs to visit Syrian relatives), never attempted to obtain permits for the trips.
However, Rubinstein decided to close a third case, in which Bishara allegedly attacked policemen carrying out their duties during a demonstration by Israeli Arab students in occupied Jerusalem, Haaretz added.
The attorney general said there was not enough evidence to support an indictment in this case.
The paper added that Rubinstein would now offer Bishara a hearing at which he could try to persuade the attorney general that the planned indictments were unwarranted. If he fails to change the official's mind, the next step will be to ask the Knesset to lift Bishara's parliamentary immunity so that he can stand trial.
In response to Rubinstein's decision, Bishara said Thursday that he viewed the indictments "very gravely."
"Both indictments pose a large question mark over Israel's pretensions to democracy," he said. "If the first indictment [for incitement] comes to court, the discussion will have to revolve around the nature of the occupation and the right to resist occupation. And only heartless bureaucrats could have drafted the second indictment, in which they want to put me on trial for a humanitarian act of the highest degree." – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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