Israeli Arab Eyes Plea Bargain Over Hezbollah Spying Charges

Political activist Ameer Makhoul seeks to avoid heavy jail sentence for espionage by admitting to lesser charges.

Lawyers for alleged Hezbollah spy Ameer Makhoul are drawing up a plea bargain to be presented before the Haifa Court over the course of the next few days, Haaretz learned on Tuesday.

Alleged Hezbollah spy Amir Makhoul
Itzik Ben Malchi

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 for charges of spying and contact with a foreign agent from Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

According to Makhoul's brother Assam, a former MK for the Hadash party, attorneys Avigidor Feldman, Abu Hussein and Hassan Jibrin will ask the prosecution to drop the severe charge of espionage in exchange for Makhoul's confession on several other counts.

If the plea bargain is put into action, Makhoul is expected to serve between seven to ten years in jail - but the deal has yet to be finalized.

Makhoul was arrested along another Israeli Arab, Omar Saeedm, who struck his own plea bargain in August, under which he will be charged with working for an illegal organization, a crime that carries a punishment of several months' jail.

Upon his arrest, Makhoul was kept from meeting with a lawyer or speaking with his family for nearly two weeks, during which he confessed to the accusations. His lawyers later later claimed the confession was coerced. They were finally allowed access to Makhoul only after threatening to boycott a hearing.

Makhoul, a veteran activist well-known among Arab charities and NGOs, was a regular participant in conferences on discrimination in Israel and abroad and has been a virulent critic of government policy.

Unofficial sources said at the time of his arrest that Makhoul was in contact with a number of foreign activists, some with links to groups regarded by Israel as terror organizations.