Amir Makhoul 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy of the Ittijah website)
Amir Mahoul, a prominent Israeli-Arab activist, was found guilty on Wednesday of being in contact with a foreign agent, conspiracy to assist the enemy in war, espionage and aggravated espionage, following a plea bargain arrangement between his lawyer and the state.
Haifa District Court Judge Yosef Elron scheduled a hearing on pleas for sentencing for December 5.
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The two sides did not agree on the punishment to be meted out to Mahoul. The state called for 10 years in jail, while Mahoul’s lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, wanted seven years.
According to the agreement, the state dropped the more serious charge of “assistance to the enemy in war,” a crime punishable by death or life imprisonment.
During Sunday’s hearing, Mahoul pleaded guilty to the actions included in the corrected indictment. He was charged with having met in 2008, in Copenhagen, with a Hizbullah agent who installed an encryption program enabling him to send coded messages to his Hizbullah handlers.
“The defendant also agreed to accept from the agent an email address to which he could write to contact his operators,” the indictment continued.
“During that meeting, the defendant also received from the foreign agent a detailed explanation of how to use the encryption program and how he was supposed to send the messages so they would not be discovered by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).”
In the following period, Mahoul sent 10 messages to his handlers that included the location of the Shin Bet facility in Jalama southeast of Haifa, the location of the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems plant on the Acre-Haifa highway, detailed information on the location of the Shin Bet facility in Haifa, including the exact address and the roads leading to it, and general security arrangements.
In a statement to the press, the state prosecution explained why it had settled for a plea bargain with Mahoul rather than continuing with the trial based on the harsher indictment.
“We took into account the gravity of the crimes and weighed it against his personal circumstances (including his public standing within the Arab sector) and the rumor mill that has surrounded the judicial process against him up to now, with all that that entails for the fabric of relations between the Arab and Jewish communities,” the Justice Ministry spokesman wrote.
“In the end, we felt it was important that the defendant’s conviction be based on his admission of the charges against him and his acceptance of responsibility for them, rather than a conviction that would involve a lengthy judicial process.”
Mahoul was arrested on May 6. A court gag order was issued regarding his arrest and investigation.
The ban was partly lifted on May 10 because bloggers and foreign media began reporting the affair.
On the eve of the filing of the original indictment on May 27, Mahoul’s family issued an indictment of their own against the Shin Bet, accusing its agents of torturing him. They charged that Mahoul, who was born in 1958, was suffering from sharp pains and deteriorating eyesight and demanded to know how his health could have suffered so much in such a short time in jail.
Mahoul’s lawyer, Abu Hussein, told The Jerusalem Post
on Wednesday that this was a black day for his client and his family,
but that he had no choice but to reach agreement with the prosecution.
According to figures published recently, said Abu Hussein, about 98
percent of regular criminal indictments lead to convictions. When it
comes to security-related indictments, the figure was 100%. Mahoul could
not take the risk of ending up in jail for 20 years.
Abu Hussein added, however, that the information Mahoul provided was worthless, and the damage to the state negligible.
“What did he tell them?” Abu Hussein asked. “The location of the Rafael
plant? Anyone who drives along the Haifa-Acre highway sees the building,
with a sign stating its function.”