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 Wednesday, 1 January, 2003, 02:06 GMT
Arab Israeli banned from election
Ahmed Tibi
Tibi has also been banned
Israel's election commission has banned a prominent Arab Israeli politician from standing for re-election to the country's parliament, or Knesset.

Azmi Bishara will be unable to contest elections due on 28 January, and his Balad party has also been banned.

The latest move comes after another Arab Israeli, Ahmed Tibi, received a similar ban.

However, the Jewish nationalist politician Baruch Marzel, from the right-wing Herut party, has been allowed to stand.

All three decisions will be referred automatically to Israel's Supreme Court, which has the power to overturn the rulings.

'Endorsement'

The election committee is made up of members of the Knesset.

Azmi Bishara
It voted 22-19 early on Wednesday to ban Mr Bishara, and 21-20 to ban Balad, for whom Mr Bishara is currently the only MK.

Israel's Attorney General Eliakim Rubinstein had backed a ban on Mr Bishara, saying that his support for Palestinian "resistance" amounted to endorsement of suicide bomb attacks in Israel.

The attorney general said Mr Bishara had held meetings which had given backing to militant groups like Islamic Jihad.

Mr Bishara said he had not called for armed struggle.

"I have spoken of the rights of a people under occupation... to resist occupation," he said.

Under a new law the Knesset can expel a politician for denying Israel's existence as a Jewish or democratic state or for support of terrorism and armed resistance.

Mr Bishara had also been charged with arranging visits for Israeli Palestinians - said to be visiting refugee relatives - to Syria, which is still officially at war with Israel.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  Ahmed Tibi, Arab-Israeli Knesset member
'It was a black day for Israeli democracy'
  Azmi Bishara, disqualified Knesset member
"Israel has to choose, either it is democratic or not"

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28 Nov 02 | Middle East
28 Nov 02 | Middle East
27 Mar 02 | Middle East
27 Feb 02 | Middle East
20 May 99 | Israel elections
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