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Lebanon charges sheikh with spying for Israel

June 1, 2011 15:16

Sheikh could receive up to 10 years in prison with hard labor; security officials say arrests have weakened Israel's spy networks in Lebanon.

Ammiq Natural Reserve in western Bekaa in Lebanon.

Lebanon hills 311. (photo credit:REUTERS)

BEIRUT - Lebanon's military prosecutor charged a Shi'ite sheikh on Wednesday with spying for Israel, the first high-profile case of its kind in recent months.

Judge Sakr Sakr said Sheikh Mohammed Ali al-Husseini was accused of "dealing with the Israeli enemy, contacting them and dealing with foreign countries that deal with (Israel)", according to judicial sources.

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Husseini, who was also charged with acquiring weapons, ran an organization called the Arab-Islamic Resistance which he said had 1,500 fighters, according to security sources.

Husseini was known to be critical of Hezbollah and its regional backers, Syria and Iran, and had claimed responsibility for firing rockets towards Israel two years ago, security sources said.

Dozens of people suspected of spying for Israel have been arrested since Lebanon launched an espionage investigation in April 2009. Israel has not commented on any of the arrests.

A high-ranking army officer, a Christian party member and telecom firm employees were among those detained over the past year. Seven people have received death sentences in the last few months. None has been executed.

If convicted, Husseini could receive a jail sentence with hard labor for up to 10 years.

Security officials say the arrests have severely weakened Israel's spying networks in Lebanon.
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