Itongadol.- Bnei Sakhnin was fined NIS 15,000 by the Israel Football Association’s disciplinary court on Wednesday for paying tribute to fugitive former Balad MK Azmi Bishara ahead of Saturday’s Premier League encounter against Hapoel Tel Aviv at Doha Stadium.
Bishara was honored by Sakhnin for helping the club raise money in Qatar where he currently resides after fleeing Israel in 2007 while under investigation for passing information to Hezbollah during the previous year’s Second Lebanon War.
Bishara founded Balad and was an MK in the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th Knessets. A Balad representative received a plaque in Bishara’s place on Saturday.
Sakhnin’s recognition of Bishara created an uproar and was criticized by several Members of Knesset, including, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat.
Shortly after the game, Liberman wrote on Facebook that “when a soccer team in the Israeli League thanks someone who is suspected of spying and aiding Hezbollah, who fled from the country and incites against the State of Israel, there must be serious consequences.”
Liberman called for the Israel Football Association and the league’s administration to consider suspending Sakhnin from the Premier League, heavily fine the team and not allow it to play before fans in its stadium for an extended period of time.
“I recommend that the team’s management consider the option of playing in the Palestinian or the Qatari league,” Liberman added.
However, while the IFA court found Sakhnin guilty of political involvement, it acquitted it of misconduct on Wednesday and only fined it NIS 15,000, while also handing the club a one-year suspended fine of NIS 35,000.
“The IFA court did not look into the criminal allegations facing Bishara or any aspect regarding the money he raised,” said judge Israel Shimoni. “The court only addressed the club’s decision to use a sporting assembly in order to promote a controversial political figure.”