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Arab lawmaker’s disqualification overruled

Jerusalem - Israel's supreme court Sunday overturned a decision by the country's elections committee to ban an Arab-Israeli lawmaker from running in January 22 parliamentary elections.

The panel of nine judges unanimously rejected the argument that there were grounds to disqualify Hanin Zoabi - of the Arab Balad party, which currently holds three seats in the legislature - and ruled that she can run.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his Jerusalem office. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun. Credit: REUTERS

The High Court of Justice in Jerusalem heard a petition against the disqualification late last week, during which a scuffle erupted.

More than two dozen extreme-right activists activists tried to physically block Zoabi from leaving, pushing her entourage and yelling insults, including “terrorist, go to Gaza.”

Security personnel had to whisk Zoabi, 43, from the Arab town of Nazareth in northern Israel, away.

Israel's Central Elections Commission (CEC) earlier this month had voted 19-9, with one abstention, to disqualify Zoabi based on a reading of the Basic Law, which states that anyone who denies Israel's existence as a Jewish state, or supports armed struggle against it, may not be a candidate for the Knesset (parliament).

The supreme court's rejection of the ban had been expected, as the CEC has disqualified parties in the past, including two Arab ones in 2009, only for the court to overturn all such decisions, except for the banning of Rabbi Meir Kahane's extremist Jewish Kach party in 1988. - Sapa-dpa

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