Israeli Arab charged with spying

Amir Mahoul indicted for spying for Hizbullah.

May 27, 2010 13:54
Janan Makhoul, left, wife of spy suspect Amir Makh

Janan Makhoul 311. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)


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Israeli Arab political activist Amir Mahoul was charged in Haifa District Court on Thursday with espionage, assisting an enemy in time of war and maintaining contact with an enemy agent.

Meanwhile, in Nazareth District Court, the state served an indictment against Balad Party activist Omar Said, who was charged with maintaining contact with an enemy agent and transferring information that could be used by the enemy.
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Mahoul was arrested on May 6 and Said on April 24. The court originally imposed a gag order on both investigations, which was partially lifted on May 10.

The indictments contain many details regarding the alleged crimes. According to the charges against Mahoul, he met Lebanese-born Hassan Jaja in 2004 and continued to maintain close ties with him.

In 2006, Mahoul learned that Jaja was a Hizbullah agent. Two years later, he agreed to serve Hizbullah, including passing on information. He went to Copenhagen, where he met another Hizbullah agent who gave him a specially designed computer encryption system and an e-mail address to send the information he gathered.

“The defendant returned to Israel with the equipment and for a long period of time maintained encrypted Internet contact with Hizbullah operatives and from time to time passed on different kinds of information in accordance with the topics that the organization wanted to hear about,” the indictment states. “All of this was done to help the organization in its war against Israel.”

The indictment lists a large number of topics that Mahoul was asked about, including information on military bases, weapons and guarding arrangements, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) facilities in Haifa, Mossad facilities in the Tel Aviv area, security in the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv and many other subjects.

The state charged that Mahoul sent 10 messages to his Hizbullah contacts that included information on the location of the Shin Bet offices in Jalama and Haifa, with their exact addresses, and the locations of the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. plant on the Acre-Haifa highway, Mossad facilities in the center of the country and the Nahshonim military base, which the indictment describes as an American base, and the home address of Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin.

Mahoul allegedly provided the operatives with the names of six Israeli Arabs who he thought might work for Hizbullah.

According to a senior security official, Mahoul was also asked by Hizbullah to collect information on the security arrangements surrounding the convoys of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He did not succeed in this mission, the security official said.

Hizbullah also tried to use Mahoul to gather accurate information on the effect its rocket attacks on Israel had during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. The group was mostly interested in the targets that were hit by Katyusha rockets, of which it fired about 4,000 during the monthlong war.

Said was charged with having met Jaja in Jordan and holding discussions with a Lebanese man during a visit to Sharm e-Sheikh in Sinai. The man told Said he was a Hizbullah agent and asked him to help the organization by taking pictures of military, economic and industrial facilities.

According to the indictment, Said refused, saying he was too old, had five children and was afraid of being caught. The agent offered Said an encryption device but he refused to take it.

Said was allegedly asked if he knew of Israeli Arabs who would work for Hizbullah and provided two names. The Lebanese agent then gave Said an e-mail address and told him to send him more names. Said later tore up the address.

Mahoul confessed to the charges in the indictment, but later, during a remand hearing, recanted, saying he had been tortured by his Shin Bet interrogators and was in great pain.

He was interrogated for 12 days without being allowed to see his lawyers, Hassan Jabareen and Orna Kohn, of the Israeli-Arab human rights organization, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and Hussein Abu Hussein.

Kohn told The Jerusalem Post that when the lawyers saw Mahoul for the first time on the night of May 17, “we were very worried. He was in a very poor state, very pale and with a yellow complexion. He was interrogated for many hours at a time by several interrogators who came and went."

“For the first two days, they did not give him a break in the questioning. He is 1.9 meters tall and they made him sit on a chair that was 40 centimeters off the ground, with his feet bound to the legs of the chair and his arms bound and placed behind the back of the chair. This caused him severe pains in his head, back, arms and legs. When he asked them to allow him to sit normally, they refused. They told him to put his legs behind the legs of the chair and when he said this hurt even more, they bound them in that position.”

Cohen said Mahoul told them he lost his concentration and did not know where he was.

On Thursday evening, the Shin Bet informed Physicians for Human Rights that it would allow a doctor chosen by the organization to examine Mahoul.

The NGO was asked by Mahoul’s family to intercede on his behalf regarding all health issues. Earlier, Physicians for Human Rights had asked the Prisons Service’s chief medical officer, Dini Orkin Tishler, to allow an independent doctor to examine Mahoul. She replied that the suspect was being interrogated by the Shin Bet and it refused to allow the examination while the interrogation was still going on.

Last week, Physicians for Human Rights filed a court petition demanding to examine Mahoul and to be given access to his medical records. The Shin Bet answer on Wednesday satisfied the demands of the organization, a spokeswoman said.

It is not clear when the trials of Mahoul and Said will begin. The only dates set so far are for hearings on the state’s request to remand both suspects in custody until the end of the legal proceedings. The request regarding Said will be heard on June 20 and the one for Mahoul the following day. In the meantime, both will remain in jail.

The trial will only begin after the lawyers have studied the evidence gathered by the Shin Bet and the police.

The lawyers are only due to receive the material next week, Kohn told he Post. They will then have to study it and at some point, the trial will begin with the reading of the indictment and the defense’s plea. Kohn added that after taking back his confession, Mahoul denies all the charges against him.

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