Court to Deliver Decision Tomorrow in MK Azmi Bishara's Syria Visits Case


On Tuesday 1 April 2003 at 12 p.m., the Nazareth Magistrate Court will deliver its decision on the preliminary arguments in MK Azmi Bishara's Syria visits case. In this ruling, the Court will decide whether or not to dismiss the indictment currently pending against MK Bishara and two of his parliamentary assistants, Mr. Ashraf Qurtam and Mr. Musa Diab. They have been charged with violating the Emergency Regulations (Foreign Travel) (1948) for assisting Palestinian citizens of Israel to visit their relatives in Syria, from whom they have been separated for over fifty years. The three presiding judges are Judge Tawfiq Ktely, President of the Magistrate Court; Judge George Azulay; and Judge Yusef Ben Hamo.

Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel represents MK Bishara and his parliamentary aides. In the preliminary arguments, Attorney Hassan Jabareen, the General Director of Adalah and the head of the legal team, argued that the indictment is legally flawed and must be dismissed for the following reasons:

  • Regulation 17(c) of the Emergency Regulations states that the Regulations, in full, shall not apply to a person in possession of a diplomatic passport or a service passport of the State of Israel. Given that MK Bishara has been in possession of a service passport since his election to the Knesset in 1996, prior to organizing the Syria visits, Regulation 17(c) makes it impossible to charge him with a violation of these Regulations. Thus, the indictment fails to state an offense.
  • Visits between immediate family members who have been separated for more than 50 years, is a humanitarian issue. These family members had been forced to flee Palestine for Syria as refugees during the 1948 war, and were barred by the Israeli authorities from returning to their homes. As such, prosecuting the case is contradictory to the principles of justice, and must be dismissed in the interests of justice.
  • As a Member of Knesset, Azmi Bishara enjoys full immunity from prosecution. In organizing these humanitarian visits, MK Bishara was exercising his role as a member of parliament on behalf of his constituents.

Adalah believes that based on Israeli law and the response of the state prosecutor, who failed to challenge the arguments advanced on behalf of MK Bishara, the Court must dismiss the indictment.

In addition to Attorney Hassan Jabareen, the legal team includes Attorney Riad Anes, Attorney Marwan Dalal, and Attorney Abeer Baker.