Two Israeli political activists were arrested in recent weeks by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) on suspicion of spying for Hizbullah and communicating with enemy agents, the Israel Police revealed on Monday.
The suspects are Ameer Mahoul, 42, from Haifa – an author and head of Ittijah – The Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, an umbrella group for Arab NGOs in Israel – and Omar Abdo, 40, from Kafr Kanna, an activist for the Balad Party.
Mahoul is the brother of Issam Mahoul, who was a Hadash MK between 1999 and 2006.
Ameer Mahoul was arrested on May 6, and Abdo was taken into custody on April 24, security services said.
A security source told The Jerusalem Post that the suspicions against the two men were “serious,” but could not elaborate due to the gag order that remains partially in effect.
The Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court lifted the ban regarding the suspects’ identities following an urgent request by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and The Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
“They were arrested on suspicion of severe security offenses,” police said in a statement. “The investigation, which is ongoing, is being coordinated with the attorney-general [Yehuda Weinstein] and the head of the Israel Police’s Investigations Branch, Cmdr. Yoav Seglovitch, as well as the state prosecution,” police added.
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Until Monday, there was a court-ordered ban on publication of all details of the investigation. However, news of the ban and and details about the arrests had spread through the blogosphere and the Israeli Arab community in recent days, sparking protests.
Mahoul’s wife, Jinan, said the arrest of her husband was “the continuation of the Nakba [disaster] that Israeli Arabs have been going through here since 1948,” Ma’ariv reported.
“I am fearful that in the dark dungeons of the Shin Bet and police, they will frame him,” she said.
Jinan Mahoul said 16 Shin Bet officers had raided her home early last Thursday, conducted searches and removed documents. She accused the agents of “acting brutally.”
Jinan Mahoul, a feminist activist, also accused the agents of “speaking with sexist overtones.”
Issam Mahoul said he was convinced that “my brother was arrested only because he is a political leader who took part in conferences around the world.”
A lawyer representing Abdo said on Monday he had only been allowed to meet with his client in the previous few hours.
“I met a thin and exhausted man,” Ynet quoted attorney Abu Hussein as saying. “He told me was questioned for 18 consecutive hours by five investigation teams.”
“This is an effort to criminalize open political and social activity of political activists,” Abeer Baker, an Adalah lawyer involved in the case, told The Associated Press. “If I have coffee with someone and he has certain political activities, it’s as if I met him because I want to harm state security.”
In its request to the court to lift the gag order, ACRI attorney Leila Margalit wrote, “From the moment a person is arrested regarding an affair, there can be no justification for such sweeping secrecy. On the one hand, it is unreasonable to assume that it will be possible to conceal the actual carrying out of the arrest from others, who may also be questioned on the affair. Therefore the reasons that might justify the gag order are weakened.
“On the other hand, it is unacceptable that in a democratic state, the authorities should be allowed to arrest people in total secrecy and make them ‘vanish’ from the public eye, without the public even knowing that they were arrested,” she wrote.
Arab lawmakers reacted with outrage to the arrests and participated in a demonstration in Haifa calling for the release of both suspects.
Balad MK Jamal Zahalka vowed not to “allow Israel to prohibit our political activity and put us in a political ghetto.”
United Arab List-Ta’al MK Taleb a-Sanaa added, “The Israeli government
cannot on one hand announce indirect negotiations with the Palestinians
[and] on the other hand declare direct war with Arabs in Israel. It is
not a sin to be a Palestinian Israeli.”
Israel Beiteinu, meanwhile, announced that it would try immediately to
pass a bill that would allow judges to remove the citizenship of
convicted spies and traitors. Knesset Law Committee chairman David
Rotem, who sponsored the bill, wrote the Knesset House Committee on
Monday asking for it to be expedited.
“People who betrayed the country should not be allowed to continue to
enjoy the privilege of citizenship,” Rotem said. “We must say clearly
and determinedly that citizenship in any country requires loyalty to
it, especially Israel, which has so many enemies abroad and should not
tolerate enemies at home.”Dan Izenberg and Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.
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