Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem during a news conference in Damascus on February 3, 2010. Photo by Reuters
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Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on Thursday sent United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon a letter defending three Israelis charged one day earlier with spying for Syria, the country's Sana news agency reported.

Muallem said that the charges against the three residents of northern Israeli villages are baseless and said Israel fabricated them in order to intimidate the men.

The Syrian minister urged Ban to pressure Israel to stop what he calls its repeated violations of UN resolutions and violations of international humanitarian law.

Muallem also demanded that Israel release all Syrian detainees in Israeli jails and withdraw from the Golan Heights.

On Thursday, three residents of villages in northern Israel were indicted by a Nazareth court on charges they allegedly spied for and passed information to agents in Syria, authorities revealed after a gag order was lifted in the case.

The three are residents of the Golan Heights and Baka al-Gharbiyeh. Two of those indicted are residents of the Golan Heights town of Majdal Shams, Majd Sha'ar, 58, and his son, Fida, 27. Also indicted was Mahmoud Masarwah, 62, of Baka al-Gharbiyeh.

They are charged with having had contact with a Syrian intelligence officer for years, specifically a former resident of Majdal Shams named Madhat Salah. The indictment states that Salah, formerly a security prisoner in Israel, and Majd Sha'ar's wife have known each other for decades.

The three are also accused of hatching an elaborate plan to kidnap someone they believed to be a Syrian defector living in Israel, suggesting that Syrian intelligence is still hunting a pilot who defected to Israel in 1989.