Canadian-Israeli Prof. Arrested on Suspicion of Spying for Hezbollah

Yossi Melman
Tamara Traubmann, Haaretz Correspondents
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Yossi Melman
Tamara Traubmann, Haaretz Correspondents

A Canadian-Israeli professor has been held by Israeli authorities for 18 days without access to a lawyer, on suspicion of spying for Hezbollah and Iranian intelligence agents.

A gag order on the case was lifted Wednesday after Haaretz appealed to Nazareth Magistrates Court.

Professor Ghazi Falah was arrested while touring the Rosh Hanikra area, on July 8, four days before the outbreak of the current conflict in Lebanon.

He was approached by individuals who identified themselves as security officials, and who instructed him to stop photographing. Falah refused, and after an argument, was arrested.

Falah, a professor of geography at the University of Akron, said he had taken the pictures as part of his acadmic research.

Before Wednesday, Falah had not been permitted to speak to his lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein. The police and the Shin Bet security service repeatedly refused to lift the gag order placed on this case, despite wide publicity in media sources in Canada, U.S., and Britain.

According to security officials, Falah is suspected of "spying for hostile sources, with the goal of harming state security," apparently in reference to his alleged connections with Hezbollah and Iranian intelligence.

They hinted that Falah was allegedly sent by these sources to photograph various locations, and to report where rockets have landed in Israel.

Security officials said Falah was photographing a military antenna in Rosh Hanikra. He recently took a trip to Beirut, and two years before visited Iran.

Falah has denied all suspicions against him, claiming the purpose of his trip to Beirut had to been to organize an international conference on geography in the Arab world. Falah said his trip to Tehran had been in the company of Alex Murphy, former head of the American Geography Asscociation, and was solely for acadmic purposes.

"I am a geographer and an Academic researcher, and I have never made any connections secret or illegal with intelliegence or terror sources," Falah told Haaretz in a statement given by his lawyer.

Falah said all the pictures he had taken along the length of the strip outside of Nahariya were designated for his research, and the rest of the pictures were similar to those he took during his visits in Lebanon from Tyre southward until Israel.

Falah's remand was extended Wednesday by four days. His lawyer, Hussein, has appealed to the Haifa District Court against the extension.

Academics around the world have organized an international campaign on behalf of Falah calling on Israel to allow Falah due process, and to either present him with an indictment or release him.

"I have worked with him as a journal editor, and we have jointly participated in field trips in several different parts of the world," said Murphy. "I am greatly concerned by reports that he has not had access to a lawyer or been able to communicate with his family and friends."

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