Ameer Makhoul—director of the Haifa-based Ittijah: the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations—was sentenced by an Israeli court to nine years in prison, and given an additional one-year suspended sentence on Jan. 30. The prosecution claimed that a Jordanian civil society activist who Makhoul was in contact with was a Hezbollah agent, and that he gave the contact information on the locations of a military base and General Security Services (Shabak, or Shin Bet) offices. Makhoul’s “confession” was admitted as evidence, despite allegations that his statement was made under duress and that he was tortured during interrogation following his arrest in a pre-dawn raid on his home last May.
It also appears that the information allegedly conveyed by Makhoul was publicly available. Under Israeli law, people can be charged with “espionage” even if the information passed onto an “enemy agent” is publicly known, and even if there is no intent to do harm through passing on the information. Makhoul was held incommunicado for 12 days after his arrest, and a gag order prohibited media coverage on the case during this period. He was originally charged with an even more serious offense, “assisting an enemy in war,” which could have carried a life sentence; that was dropped when he agreed to a plea bargain. (Amnesty International, Jan. 30)
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