makhoul - Hagai Frid - January 31 2011
Amir Makhoul at his sentencing hearing yesterday in Haifa. He was convicted of passing information to Hezbollah. Photo by Hagai Frid
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The Haifa District Court sentenced political activist Amir Makhoul to nine years imprisonment and one year suspended after he admitted in a plea bargain to charges of espionage and conspiracy and contact with an agent of Hezbollah.

According to the sentence yesterday, Makhoul gave a Hezbollah agent information on Shin Bet installations in the Haifa area and on the location of Mossad headquarters in central Israel. Makhoul also tried to relay information on the Nahshonim base and searched for information on the location of the home of the head of the Shin Bet.

His sentence was more or less expected, as it was less than the 10 years sought by the prosecution and more than the seven years asked for by his defense team.

The panel of three judges, Yosef Elron, Moshe Gilad and Avraham Elyakim, wrote in their decision that "without going into the substance of the information that the defendant passed on to Hezbollah, his actions suggest a link with the enemy and a wish to assist him."

The judges added: "The question remains, how a person of his standing, who is involved in society and public activity, carries out such severe security-related violations and believes that this was entrapment and naivete on his part? The defendant is an experienced man with international connections, who is not a young and experienced man, [but someone] accustomed to meetings and conferences in the world abroad, who joined the ranks of a terrorist organization, whose purpose is to harm the existence of the state and its citizens."

Before his sentencing, Makhoul said that his admission of guilt was necessary in view of the public animosity toward the Arab public, and that he does not admit that he carried out the acts.

"Any sentence will be cruel in my case, and it will be affected by the vengeful atmosphere against the Arab population and against its legitimate struggle in Israel and abroad. The judges need to prove, prior to reading the sentence, whether they are the court or the Shin Bet, something which operates under the rules of justice, or as the inner court of the Shin Bet. I admitted to the charges as part of a forced reality, and I intend to carry on with my legitimate activities for the sake of the Palestinian population in Israel," Makhoul said. Hussein Abu Hussein, an attorney on the defense team, said that the sentence was relatively severe in terms of what was proposed in the plea bargain, and that it did not give sufficient weight to the defendant's admission or the fact that there was no practical damage to the security of the state. Abu Hussein said: "This is punishment for the sake of making an impression, so that Arab citizens must not be involved in political activity."

Former MK Issam Makhoul (Hadash ), brother of the defendant, called the sentence vengeful and aimed at punishing his brother for many years of public activity on behalf of Arab citizens and their rights.

Makhoul was arrested with Dr. Omer Sa'id, on suspicion of grave security-related violations, including espionage and contacts with a Hezbollah agent

The plea deal was brought to the court for approval in October.

Sa'id was convicted in an earlier plea bargain of contributing to the formation of an illegal organization and was sentenced to seven months' imprisonment and was released in early September.