In Wake of 2007 Visit to Syria: Prosecutors File Indictments Against MK Said Naffaa and 17 Druze Sheikhs

Legal Center for Minority Rights in Israel says the religious leaders traveled solely out of humanitarian and religious intent, promoting freedom of religious expression.

Northern District prosecutors have submitted in Nazareth Magistrate's Court two indictments against MK Said Naffaa (Balad ) and 16 Druze sheikhs, who are accused of illegally visiting Syria and Lebanon in past years. Naffaa is also charged with crimes relating to contact with a foreign agent. According to the indictment, MK Naffaa joined a group of Druze religious figures, and organized a trip of 282 Israeli citizens to Syria, via Jordan, in September 2007. Participants remained in Syria for a week, in violation of a law banning unauthorized trips to that country.

Prosecutors also claim that Naffaa had a previously arranged meeting with Talel Naj, deputy secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; and during this meeting, Naj arranged a rendezvous with Hamas political division head Khaled Mashal. The next day, MK Naffaa traveled to Mashal's office, but did not meet with the Hamas leader.

MK Said Naffaa - Moran Maayan - 27122011
Moran Maayan

The sheikhs are a group defined as the Druze liaison committee, which conducts contacts with Druze leaderships in Lebanon and Syria. Prosecutors charge that nine members of this group conspired to commit crimes: They aided and abetted trips to an enemy country, and they themselves illegally visited an enemy country, prosecutors say. The indictments also allege that 10 suspects who were involved in the 2007 Syrian visit organized in July 2010 a trip to Lebanon via Jordan and Syria, to take part in a conference there.

Prosecutors say that the indictment against Naffaa was submitted in accordance with a decision reached by then-Attorney General Menachem Mazuz in late 2009. Adalah: the Legal Center for Minority Rights in Israel, which reprsents MK Naffaa and the sheikhs, noted in response that the religious leaders traveled solely out of humanitarian and religious intent, with an agenda of promoting freedom of religious expression among members of the Druze community. Adalalh also contends that MK Naffaa's trip was a legitimate political visit carried out by a leader who represents an Arab minority in Israel, and denied that the MK met with any security figure or foreign agent.