makhoul - Tomer Neuberg - October 28 2010
Ameer Makhoul in a Haifa court in May. Photo by Tomer Neuberg
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A plea bargain in the espionage case against political activist Ameer Makhoul was reached yesterday. The Israeli Arab author confessed to spying for Hezbollah, holding contacts with a foreign agent and conspiring to assist an enemy.

Makhoul is the director of the Haifa-based Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Organizations. He was chairman of the High Arab Monitoring Committee's panel on defending Arab citizens' freedoms. He was arrested in May together with Balad Party activist Omar Saeed.

Both were suspected of serious security offenses, including spying and contact with an agent of Hezbollah.

Makhoul accepted the plea bargain in Haifa District Court yesterday. It had been offered on Tuesday. It is thought that the deal between the defense and the prosecution involves striking certain offenses from the indictment, including abetting the enemy in wartime, in exchange for the guilty plea.

"The plea bargain was approved at the highest levels, including by the state prosecutor," a representative for the prosecution said yesterday. "Most important, Makhoul, who claimed he was being persecuted politically at the beginning of this, now stands before the court and admits to the charges attributed to him."

Makhoul's lawyer said that notwithstanding the plea bargain, his client did not pass on classified information to an enemy agent, and that all of the information was already known.

Makhoul said in court yesterday that the story "is not yet finished."

Makhoul said that although many of the charges that were brought against him were irrelevant, he decided to accept the plea bargain after consulting with his lawyers and with his family.

The sentencing hearing was scheduled for December 5. The prosecution is seeking a 10-year prison sentence. The defense is hoping for a seven-year sentence.