Three charged with espionage

Majdal Shams residents contacted Syria, planned to abduct pilot.

majdal shams 298.88 (photo credit: GPO)
majdal shams 298.88
(photo credit: GPO)
Three Israeli Arab residents of northern Israel have been indicted on several espionage-related charges, police reported following the lifting of a gag order on the case Thursday.
The suspects include Fada Sha'ar, 27 and his father, 58-year-old Majad Sha'ar, both residents of the Druse village Majdal Shams, and Baka al-Gharbiya resident Mahmud Masrawa.
RELATED:Outrage continues in Majdal ShamsMakhoul charged with espionageDruse clash with cops in NorthDruse MK to be indicted for Syria visit
The indictment, which was read in the Nazareth Magistrate's Court on Thursday, includes charges of espionage, aggravated espionage, contacting a foreign agent, passing information to the enemy, conspiracy to kidnap, entry to a closed military zone, and contacting a foreign agent with the intention of harming state security. During the hearing, state prosecutor Raz Valter requested the court keep the three men in custody until the beginning of their trial.
At the end of the hearing, the court extended the suspects' remands by three weeks, until the next hearing in their case.
The kidnapping conspiracy charge is linked to a plan to kidnap a Baka al-Gharbiya man they mistakenly believed was Bassam Adel, a former Syrian Mig-23 pilot who defected to Israel in 1989 with his fighter bomber. After his landing, which took Israeli authorities by surprise, Adel immediately requested asylum and has been living in an undisclosed location in Israel ever since.
The three men are also suspected of making a number of videos of IDF bases and facilities. They also reportedly shot footage of a power plant in Hadera and tracked the movements of Israel Navy submarines in Haifa.
The indictment details a saga of clandestine meetings and secret communiques made between the defendants beginning either in 2006 or 2007. According to the indictment, beginning in 2006 or 2007, the three men began passing information to Madhat Tzalach, a former Druse resident of Majdal Shams who moved to Syria and now works for the government, where he has contacts with the state intelligence services.
According to prosecutors, at some point either in 2006 or 2007 Masrawa told the elder Sha'ar that he suspected that a man living in Baka al-Gharbiya was the pilot who defected in 1989. He allegedly asked Sha'ar to contact Madhat, a childhood friend of Sha'ar's wife. After initial contact was made, Masrawa and Sha'ar traveled to Jordan in June 2007, where they met in Amman with Tzalach and an unidentified Syrian agent. The two requested information on the pilot, who they referred to as "the bride", and hatched a plot for the two men to kidnap him and bring him to the Israel-Syria border fence, where Syrian agents would spirit him into the country.
A few months later, Masrawa flew to Cairo where he met in a hotel with Tzalach and an additional Syrian agent, who asked him for information on military installations in Israel. Masrawa was also allegedly given a cell phone by the agent in order to continue communications, as well as between $700 to $1000 for his efforts.
After Masrawa returned from Cairo, the indictment alleges that the elder Sha'ar traveled to a pharmacy in Nablus, where he purchased Diazepam (also known as "Valium") and syringes, for use in drugging the man believed to be the pilot.
The indictment implicates Fada Sha'ar for maintaining contact with Tzalach in Damascus, where he studied music between 2002 until 2008. Sha'ar is suspected of acting as a go-between for his father and Tzalach, who he allegedly kept updated with information on the efforts to kidnap "the bride." Fada was arrested on July 10th at Ben-Gurion Airport immediately upon landing on a return flight from Paris.
The indictment followed a lengthy investigation carried out by the Shin Bet and the Israel Police international crimes unit. When security forces came to Majdal Shams to search the Sha'ar family home, nearly a thousand villagers surrounded the Sha'ar family home and prevented the officers from leaving. A police negotiation team was summoned which managed to speak with village leaders and diffuse the situation peacefully. While negotiations were underway, large numbers of border patrolmen, riot police, and members of the special anti-terror unit YAMAM were sent in case the talks failed.
In late July, Majad Sha'ar's wife Mona, 46, was arrested on suspicion of being linked to the affair. She was not mentioned in the indictment issued Thursday.
Lawyers for the three men say they have denied the allegations against them, and have criticized police for not allowing them to view the investigative material against their clients.
Unlike in the rest of Israel, where Druse are considered loyal Israelis and serve in the IDF, in Majdal Shams and the other three Druse villages of the Golan Heights villagers see themselves as Syrian.