TEL AVIV (Aug. 27)
The verbal and physical assault of four Knesset members by supporters of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach Party as they tried to visit Tel Mond prison yesterday, and the refusal by Interior and Police Minister Yosef Burg to allow them to enter, continued to make waves throughout the country today.
The four MKs — Mordechai Virshubski of Shinui, Bennie Shalita of Likud, Yair Tsaban of the Mapam wing of the Labor Alignment, and Mordechai Bar-On of the Citizens Rights Movement — had announced their intention last week of seeing whether members of the Jewish underground were getting preferential treatment in prison while awaiting trial. Kahane also announced his intention last week to stop the MKs from getting in.
ISSUE OF IMMUNITY SCRUTINIZED
The parliamentarians contended that their visit to the prison was a right given them under Knesset immunity and did not have to be coordinated with the prison authorities or the Minister of Police, although they did inform Burg of their intention.
Legal experts, however, said today that the legal issue was not clear regarding whether parliamentary immunity allowed a Knesset member to enter a prison without prior coordination with the authorities. Most held that MKs appeared to be in error since immunity referred to public places, not to closed institutions such as a prison. But the detained Jewish underground members have been visited by a number of rightwing Knesset members, including Science Minister Yuval Neeman of the Tehiya Party, shortly after they were arrested.
ANOTHER VISIT SET FOR THURSDAY
Nevertheless, Virshubski said today that he and other MKs would visit Tel Mond prison and the Ramle prison where Arab and other security prisoners are held to compare the conditions of incarceration. This time the visits have been coordinated with the proper authorities and the date for their inspection has been fixed by Burg and the prison administrations for Thursday.
Burg again repeated his charge today that the four MKs were engaged in a political and public relations ploy by trying to get into Tel Mond prison yesterday without having coordinated their visit with the authorities. Burg also said he was still awaiting a full report from the police and would give a detailed report to Abba Eban, acting Knesset Speaker, as requested by him.
When the four MKs arrived yesterday at the Tel Mond prison they were surrounded by between 20 and 30 Kahane supporters, many of them wearing yellow shirts with the Kach emblem on them. Among the demonstrators was the family of an Israel Defense Force soldier who was killed by terrorists in the West Bank two weeks ago. The PLO claimed responsibility for the murder.
Demonstrators pummelled and cursed the MKs and yelled “terrorists,” PLO lovers,” “We will smash in your faces … we will break your legs.” Police denied that any physical violence had taken place. Prison guards behind the gates stood by passively as the MKs were being pumr elled. After a half hour of tumult, the Sharon district police deputy inspector, Kalman Bornstein, arrived. He later told Israel Radio that he had plainclothes policemen in the crowd and had arrived as soon as he thought police reinforcements were warranted.
UNREST IN THE KNESSET
Meanwhile, there was unrest in the Knesset today over yesterday’s incident. Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir was asked to prepare a legal opinion on what constitutes parliamentary immunity and under what conditions it applies. Once the legal opinion is ready the Knesset will discuss the matter in its entirety.