Bishara Denies Aiding Enemy in Lebanon War

Former MK Azmi Bishara said yesterday that "the accusations against me are an attempt to scare me and my constituents," following a court decision to make public the fact he is accused of security violations.

The Balad chairman is accused of aiding the enemy during wartime, passing information on to the enemy and contacts with a foreign agent, including during the Second Lebanon War.

He is also suspected of money laundering for receiving large sums of money that were transferred from abroad while he was an MK.

In response to a petition filed by Haaretz through attorney Paz Mozer, as well as other media organizations, the Petah Tikva Magistrates Court decided yesterday to partially lift the gag order on the details of the case. The court also ruled that the order will be lifted completely in a week, with the consent of the police.

The court said in a statement that to date the police have focused on collecting evidence to substantiate the various accusations. The maximum sentence for aiding the enemy during wartime is death.

Police apparently questioned Bishara twice under caution, although Bishara was shown only part of the investigative material. A police statement said that since January Bishara has been evading further questioning.

"In the last meeting with investigators," said the statement, "Bishara told them that he intends to leave the country for a few days. He said he would return for the remaining questioning and a date for the next meeting was set. After he failed to arrive on that date ... a number of different dates were given on his behalf. Despite his promises, Bishara did not arrive for further questioning. In accordance with the attorney general's instructions, he was informed that he must arrive for questioning by January 22, but did not do so. Investigators still expect and hope that he will return for the remainder of the questioning, as he promised."

The investigation is being conducted under the supervision of Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and State Prosecutor Eran Shendar, who have issued instructions to investigators. According to the statement, the gag order was issued to allow the investigation to be carried out in a "professional manner."

Bishara denied the allegations yesterday. "They have turned personal, political, and cultural ties with the Arab world into security violations," he said. "They have turned personal telephone calls into security violations." Bishara made the comments during an interview with Al-Jazeera from Doha, Qatar, where he is participating in a forum on democracy and development.

Bishara's position in principle is that his actions during the war are being misinterpreted. In previous interviews, he said that "Israel's enemies are not my enemies," hinting that he said that "Israel's enemies are not my enemies," hinting that he was referring to senior officials in the Arab world, particularly Lebanon.

The Balad chairman also accused the Israeli establishment of trying to deter Israeli Arabs from adopting Arab nationalist positions toward the state. He added that he believes the accusations are an attempt to convince the Israeli public that his call for turning the country into a state of all its citizens is just a cover for its destruction.

"They tell them this so that they won't listen to Arabs who have a democratic agenda," he said.

Bishara's party also issued a sweeping denial.

"Balad will not surrender to threats and intimidations by the Shin Bet and its cohorts, and will continue its political, parliamentary, and public activity - within the bounds of democratic activity and citizenship - as it always has," the party said in a statement.

"Balad was steadfast in its right and obligation to oppose the war in real time, to condemn its crimes and its criminals and to express solidarity with the victims of aggression," the party added, saying that neither Balad nor Bishara hid their opposition to the war.

Interior Minister Roni Bar-On asked Mazuz yesterday to examine the possibility of confiscating Bishara's property, should it emerge that Bishara was financially compensated for transferring the information. Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai called on Bar-On to immediately revoke Bishara's citizenship, saying that "he who took advantage of his citizenship in order to harm the citizens of Israel is not worthy of citizenship."

Bar-On has in the past tried to revoke the citizenship of another Balad MK, Wasal Taha, for expressing solidarity with resistance to the IDF. The move was thwarted by Mazuz, who expressed near-absolute opposition to revoking citizenship.

Labor MK Nadia Hilou said, "We must wait until the investigation reaches its completion. We cannot forget that most Israeli Arabs are loyal citizens.

"In this difficult time me must increase Jewish-Arab cooperation and not be swept up by incitement against the Arab public."