An Israeli Arab man was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison by the Petah Tikva District Court on Tuesday for spying on Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi for Hizbullah.
The penalty also includes a three-year suspended sentence for Tira resident Rawi Sultani, 23, who had no criminal or security record.
Sultani, who worked out at the same Kfar Saba gym as Ashkenazi, was found guilty of giving Hizbullah information about the gym’s whereabouts and a breakdown of Ashkenazi’s security detail during his gym visits. His sentence follows a plea bargain reached between prosecutors and Sultani’s attorney and father, Fouad Sultani.
The indictment, which names more than two dozen witnesses, including several officers from the Israel Police International Crimes Division, charges Sultani with making contact with a foreign agent and conspiracy to pass information to an enemy. During initial proceedings against Sultani, the prosecution maintained that he had confessed to the charges under police questioning following his arrest in early August 2009.
According to his indictment, which was issued later that month, Sultani met a Hizbullah agent named Salman Hareb in 2008 while he was attending a summer camp in Morocco as part of a Balad party delegation.
The man introduced himself as a Hizbullah activist, and at some point during the visit Sultani is believed to have told him that he attends the same gym as the IDF chief.
Around a month later, the two men began corresponding by e-mail and on Facebook, and Sultani agreed to meet Hareb’s brother Sami during a family trip to Poland.
During their meeting in Poland, the indictment reads that Sultani agreed to help Hizbullah collect intelligence on Israeli military sites and politicians.
Sultani allegedly met Sami Hareb in Poland on December 23, 2008. Sami Hareb presented himself as a Hizbullah activist, and asked Sultani to help the organization collect information on Israeli sites, military bases and public figures. Sultani allegedly agreed and also is believed to have given Hareb detailed descriptions of Ashkenazi’s gym security detail.
The pair then set a later meeting, at which Sultani was given a secure e-mail address and CD with encryption software on it.
After succeeding in recruiting Sultani, Hareb is believed to have asked him if he was familiar with any Palestinian students in Israel who would be willing to work for Hizbullah.
Following news reports of Sultani’s arrest, defense officials said that Ashkenazi’s travel routes and daily itinerary were modified as a result of the incident.
After the sentencing, Fouad Sultani said his son’s punishment was exaggerated due to political and national reasons. “Rawi is paying a heavy price for an incident that received disproportionate attention from the security establishment and the media. If he had been a Jewish boy caught in the same situation, the treatment of him would have been different. The security establishment would have made do with a warning – we have many examples where this happened,” he said.
In their final statement, the judges presiding over Sultani’s case
referred to him as “a young, naïve boy” who was taken advantage of by
opportunistic, sophisticated Hizbullah operatives who exploited his
naivete and youth.
They did add, however, that the charges were “severe,” in particular
the passing of personal information on a security man of the highest
level to enemy agents.
The judges said they saw the punishment as a “deterrent sentence that
is part of the fight against the phenomenon of young men who are
tempted into falling into the web of professional enemy agents looking
to recruit them and receive security information from them.”