28 December 2011

Israeli AG Indicts Arab MK Sa'id Naffaa and 16 Arab Druze Religious Leaders for Visiting Syria Four Years Ago; Adalah to Represent

(Haifa, Israel) On 26 December 2011, the Israeli Attorney General (AG) Yehuda Weinstein submitted an indictment before the Nazareth District Court against MK Sa'id Naffaa (The National Democratic Assembly-Balad) on charges of "illegally traveling to an enemy country" and assisting in organizing a visit to an enemy state. The indictment alleges that MK Naffaa organized and accompanied a delegation of 282 Arab Druze clerics and social activists who are citizens of Israel, on a pilgrimage to their holy places in Syria in September 2007.

The prosecution also charged MK Naffaa with the vague security offense of "contact with a foreign agent", alleging that he met with Palestinian political leaders whom Israel considers to be heads of "terrorist organizations".

In parallel, the AG also submitted an indictment before the Nazareth Magistrates' Court accusing 16 Arab Druze religious leaders of "illegally traveling to an enemy country" and assisting in arranging travel to an "enemy state" following their participation in the same delegation and visit.

Adalah Attorneys Hassan Jabareen and Orna Kohn, in cooperation with the private lawyer Saud Ghanim, have been representing the religious leaders and MK Naffaa since the beginning of legal proceedings against them. In the view of Adalah and Attorney Ghanim: "The religious leaders' visit to Syria was purely for religious and humanitarian reasons. Even the Israeli Supreme Court regards the Israeli law that prevents these types of visits as arbitrary. Therefore, the filing of an indictment in this regard is discriminatory, and the real problem is with the law and not the actual visit. We will challenge the constitutionality of this law before the court. This law dates back to the emergency laws in place since the days of military rule and contradicts modern fundamental constitutional principles."

With regard to the indictment of MK Naffaa, Adalah stated that, "His visit to Syria came as a part of the fulfillment of his duties as a member of Knesset (MK) and as a public representative. Therefore it is a political visit that lies within the scope of his parliamentary immunity. The Supreme Court has acknowledged that parliamentary immunity includes any legitimate political act, and MK Naffaa, according to his testimony before the Attorney General, did not carry out any prohibited act or meet any prohibited political person/party during the visit. Accordingly, the filing of an indictment in this case is also arbitrary."

Adalah also emphasized that, "We have tried in the past, through hearings before the Attorney General [in March 2009] in which we represented MK Naffa and the religious leaders, to persuade the prosecution to drop the indictments in this case, but he decided today, four years after the visit, to submit invalid indictments that have no legal or constitutional grounds."

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