Milad Khatib before the hearing at the Haifa District Court.
Milad Khatib at the Haifa District Court, October 2012. Photo by Abdullah Shama
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The Haifa District Court on Tuesday sentenced an Israeli Arab to seven years in prison for spying for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Milad Khatib was convicted of being in contact with a foreign agent and assisting an enemy in wartime, according to a court document. It added that he confessed to the charges against him as part of a plea bargain. Khatib was accused of gathering intelligence on the security detail for President Shimon Peres and on army installations. 

The 26-year-old was arrested in September 2012 and charged a month later.

The Majdal Krum resident first made connection with Hezbollah in 2007, and was recruited into the group by an agent named Barhan in 2009. The two held several meetings in Denmark and Turkey, among other locations, until 2011. 

Barhan instructed Khatib to observe and pass on information about Israel Defense Forces bases in the north, secret weapons stores, weapons manufacturing plants and other strategic sites, the indictment said. He was also asked to collect information about Israeli Arabs that belong to Zionist political parties.

After returning to Israel, the indictment said, Khatib collected information about the security arrangements for Peres when he visited Majdal Krum in August 2012.

He was expected to pass on the information to Barhan in another face-to-face meeting in May 2013, but the plot was foiled with his arrest.

Khatib's attorney, Hussein Abu Hussein, argued that the appropriate sentence in the defendant's case would be 10 months in prison and a month's probation, claiming that he wasn't driven by ideological motives. Abu Hussein said his client's weak personality allowed him to be swayed by Barhan, who was much older than Khatib. He asked for the judges' lenience, citing the adversities that a lengthy sentence would inflict on Khatib's family.

The prosecution attorneys, in turn, asked for a graver penalty, stressing that the espionage endured for years and that Khatib failed to put an end to the violations of his own accord. Only his arrest prevented serious harm from being done to national security, they said. They counter-argued that Khatib was motivated by ideology, noting he wasn't paid much for his services.

The three-judge panel, which consisted of Yosef Elron, Oded Gershon and Avraham Elyahkim, sided with the prosecution, emphasizing that national security was compromised by Khatib's actions.