Former MK Barakeh's conviction overturned, cleared of all four charges relating to political demonstrations
Yesterday, 11 May 2015, the Tel Aviv District Court overturned the conviction of former Member of the Knesset, Mohammed Barakeh, the Chairman of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash/Jabha) party, for allegedly attacking a right-wing activist at a demonstration against the Second Lebanon War in 2006. With this decision and after six years of litigation, the court has cleared MK Barakeh of all four criminal charges brought against him in 2009 for alleged offenses related to protest demonstrations. Adalah General Director Attorney Hassan Jabareen represented MK Barakeh in this case; at different stages of the proceedings, Adalah Attorneys Orna Kohn and Aram Mahameed also represented MK Barakeh.
Following the court’s decision, MK Barakeh stated that, "The final result indicates the resounding failure of [former Attorney General (AG)] Menahem Mazuz, who decided after an initial hearing, to press charges. At best, it was unprofessional and at worst, it was political persecution. In any case, such a person has no place in the Supreme Court. The torture of the last 75 months of court proved what we said from the outset: the charges were political and aim to intimidate the Arab public from engaging in political activity. The fact that this is the first time since the state’s founding that an MK was taken to court for his legitimate political activities shows that there was and is an attack on the space open for opposition political activity."
In response to the decision, Attorney Jabareen stated, "Today’s decision shows that the entire case against [former] MK Mohammad Barakeh, with its plethora of different charges, was a political case from the outset. This is the first time that an indictment has been filed against an MK because of his political activities, like participating in a demonstration. The cancellation of all charges against MK Barakeh shows that the state engaged in the selective prosecution of an Arab MK because of his political activity.”
The charge on which MK Barakeh was convicted and fined NIS 650 (US $125) in 2014 is part of a four-count indictment filed by the former AG against him in 2009. The indictment related to four different events, places and time periods, all related to MK Barakeh’s legitimate protest activities against the Second Lebanon War, the Separation Wall, and police brutality and the lack of accountability for the October 2000 killings.
In October 2011, the court dismissed two of the charges on the basis that MK Barakeh’s parliamentary immunity applied to them, and therefore he could not be charged. In March 2014, the court acquitted MK Barakeh of the third and most serious charge, which alleged that he assaulted undercover police officers during a demonstration against the Separation Wall in the village of Bil’in in 2005. The acquittal was delivered due to the stark contradictions between the officers’ testimonies and the evidence presented by the defense team.
Case Citation: Appeal 13515-06-14, MK Barakeh v. The State of Israel (Tel Aviv District Court, decision delivered 10 May 2015)
Jack Khoury, Tel Aviv court overturns assault conviction of ex-Hadash head, Haaretz, 10 May 2015
Yonah Jeremy Bob, “On appeal, District Court cancels conviction of former MK Barakei for alleged tussle,” Jerusalem Post, 10 May 2015