Parliament approves 10-session ban for MP Tawfiq Okasha

Parliament’s disciplinary panel approved on Monday a request from MPs to ban controversial politician and media figure Tawfiq Okasha from attending the next 10 sessions of parliament following a string of controversial incidents that have provoked anger among fellow MPs.

The panel originally penalized Okasha with a three-session ban but raised it to 10 upon the request of MPs.

The ban follows a string incidents that have put Okasha in the spotlight and subjected him to harsh criticism from his colleagues and constituents.

Last week, he received outgoing Israeli ambassador Haim Koren for dinner at his residence in Daqahlia, having publically announced the invitation on television. The outspoken MP said that he wanted to raise the issue of Palestine with the Israeli ambassador and also discuss solutions to the ongoing problems surrounding Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam project.

To fellow MPs and many among the public, the event represented a breach of a longstanding popular and parliamentary boycott of Israel since the end of its 1973 war with Egypt.

During Sunday's session, Okasha was physically assaulted by fellow MP Kamal Ahmed, who expressed his anger at the meeting with the Israeli diplomat by beating Okasha on the head with his shoe. Ahmed was later condemned by other MPs for the attack.

Last week, before the controversy over the Israeli ambassador broke, Okasha had an altercation with parliament speaker Ali Abdelaal, who refused to allow the MP to address parliament. Just prior to the incident, Okasha has publically called for new presidential elections and a change of government.

When Abdelaal refused to allow Okasha to speak in parliament the next day, Okasha demanded his right to be heard but he was ordered out of the chamber.

As well as being suspended from attending parliamentary sessions, Okasha is facing questioning by a parliamentary commmittee concerning his meeting with the Israeli ambassador.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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