Five Islamic Movement Officials Go on Trial

David Ratner, Haaretz Correspondent
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David Ratner, Haaretz Correspondent

The trial of five senior Islamic Movement officials opened Tuesday in the Haifa District Court.

The five - Raed Salah, head of the movement's northern branch, Mahmoud Mahajna, Tawfiq Mahajna, Nasser Agbariyeh and Dr. Suleiman Agbariyeh, the mayor of Umm al-Fahm - are charged with membership in and support for a terrorist organization, contact with a foreign agent and money laundering.

According to the indictment, the five conspired to set up various institutions that would solicit funds from organizations affiliated with Hamas overseas and then transfer the money to Hamas charities in the territories, Islamic Movement institutions in Israel and prisoners involved in security offenses and terrorist activity, all with the goal of furthering Hamas' aims.

The money was allegedly transferred from several overseas organizations, including the Al Aqsa Foundation in Germany, Interpal in Britain and the Charitable Coalition, an international organization founded in Syria that operates out of Qatar and other Gulf states.

In addition, Salah and Mahmoud Mahajna, who headed the movement's Institute for Humanitarian Aid, are accused of conspiring with Nabil Mahzouma, whom Israel freed and expelled to Lebanon in the 1985 prisoner exchange known as the Jibril deal. Since then, Mahzouma has served as an Iranian intelligence agent in Lebanon, responsible for recruiting and running Palestinian and Israeli Arab agents to obtain intelligence about Israel. Salah and Mahajna are charged with having been in continuous contact with Mahzouma in 2001-2002.

A few dozen Islamic Movement supporters demonstrated outside the courtroom Tuesday, accusing the government of "political persecution." They also, for the first time, attacked the media, accusing it of having already tried and convicted Salah.

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