Gag order partly lifted: Makhoul and Said suspected of espionage, contact with Hezbollah agent

Posted: May 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

The Petah Tikva district court had partly lifted the gag order on the arrest of two Arab activists, Ameer Makhoul from Haifa and Omar Said of Kfar Kanna. The two are suspected in espionage, contact with Hezbollah agent

Yedioth Ahronoth’s site, which filed the appeal to lift the gag order, reports:

Fifty-two-year-old Ameer Makhoul from Haifa, a well-known figure in the Arab community in Israel, and 50-year-old Omar Said of Kfar Kanna, were arrested on suspicion of committing serious security offences, including espionage and contact with a foreign agent from Hezbollah. A gag order on the matter was partially lifted at Ynet’s request on Monday, meaning some of the affair’s details are still confidential.

Makhoul was arrested in his home in Haifa last week in front of his wife and children. He is suspected of being in contact with a Lebanese element of the Hezbollah terror group, espionage and contact with a foreign agent. Several computers were confiscated from his home.

Said was arrested in April. The affair is under investigation by the Shin Bet and the Israel Police’s international crimes investigation unit. The probe is being carried out with the attorney general and state prosecutor’s knowledge.

Note that the actual offenses were not revealed, and only the charges were made public. Without knowing much on the affair, I estimated here yesterday that the charge against the two will be “contact with a foreign agent”, since it is the textbook offense used to criminalize public figures in Israel. This specific law has such a broad definition, that you can basically charge anyone who ever met an Iranian or a Libyan government official or a proxy to someone in the political arm of the Hizbollah with this offense, and throw in espionage while you are at it.

Such charges make very good headlines in the tabloids, but in most cases, the offenses turn out to be extremely trivial, sometimes absurd. As long as we don’t know what is it exactly that Makhoul and Said supposedly did, it’s hard to rule whether the arrest was justified, or is it another chapter in the persecution of political activists in Israel.

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