Lawyers for Alleged Israeli Arab Spy: We'll Boycott Hearing if We Can't Meet With Him

Ameer Makhoul, who is suspected of spying on behalf of Hezbollah, has been forbidden from meeting with his lawyers or family since his arrest.

Ameer Makhoul

The defense team representing an Israeli Arab detained in recent weeks for allegedly spying on behalf of Hezbollah said Sunday that it would not participate in an upcoming hearing unless the prohibition on their client meeting with a lawyer was lifted.

Ameer Makhoul, director general of the charity Ittijah (Union of Arab Community-Based Associations) was detained by the Shin Bet security service and police anti-terror squads on May 6 charges of spying and contact with a foreign agent from Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Omar Said, a member of the Balad movement, was arrested on April 24 on the same charges.

Makhoul has not been permitted to meet with a lawyer or to speak with his family since his arrest, said the Adalah human rights organization. He has been brought to court, but forbidden from participating in his own hearings.

"If the prohibition order on meeting with a lawyer will continue to be valid [Monday] morning, the legal team will submit a motion to the court in Petah Tikva asking it to inform Ameer Makhoul of their decision not to participate in the detention hearing," said Adalah in a press release. "At the moment the prohibition order is lifted, the legal defense team will enter the courtroom and provide full representation to Mr. Makhoul."

Makhoul has been classified as a "security detainee," and his lawyers have been given no information regarding his health or the conditions of his detention. According to Adalah, this classification also surely means that Makhoul has been "exposed to harsh conditions of confinement and continuous investigation."

"The legal defense team is convinced that under these circumstances, due to the total lack of respect for due process, the representation of Ameer Makhoul in the detention hearings has become meaningless," said Adalah in a press release.

"In this instance, the legal system is a simply rubber stamp for the [Shin Bet]. It should be emphasized that the Supreme Court of Israel has never accepted an appeal against a ban on meeting with a lawyer."

Reports of the arrests circulated widely on unofficial websites and blogs but government censors had banned the Israeli press from reporting them until the gag order was lifted last week.

Makhoul's brother Assam, a former MK for Hadash, said the family had no details of the investigation but they suspected authorities had singled out the activist because of his campaigns against the government's "racist and discriminatory polices" against Israeli Arabs.

The veteran activist is well-known among Arab charities and NGOs and is a regular participant in conference on discrimination in Israel and abroad and has been a virulent critic of government policy.

Unofficial sources say Makhoul was in contact with a number of foreign activists, some with links to groups classified by the government as terror organizations.

The arrests have sparked outrage among Israeli Arab organizations and rights groups, who claim that activists disappear from their homes in the middle of the night. They also accuse the courts of being at the beck and call of security services, who often bar suspects from visits with lawyers or from obtaining legal counsel.