Brother of Israeli Sentenced to Death: Israel Police Gave Him to Thailand

Two Israeli nationals, Vladimir Akronik and Alon Makhlouf, sentenced to death in Thailand for drug smuggling.

Benny Makhlouf, the brother of Alon Makhlouf, who is one of two Israeli nationals sentenced to death by authorities in Thailand after a conviction for drug smuggling, said Wednesday that the Israel Police was behind his brother's extradition to Thailand.

Vladimir Akronik and Alon Makhlouf were arrested about a year ago during a large-scale police operation on Bangkok's Kao San road, a popular destination for Israeli tourists.

In an interview with Army Radio, Benny Makhlouf said his brother was approached by a police representative in Thailand, who asked him to testify against reputed criminal Yitzhak Abergil. When Makhlouf refused, the police handed him over to Thai authorities, Benny Makhlouf said.

Makhlouf told Army Radio that his brother has no connection to the Abergil crime family.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni instructed the Israeli embassy in Bangkok on Tuesday to appeal to the Thai authorities for a lesser sentence against the two Israelis.

A Livni spokesperson said the minister will await a response from the Thai authorities before deciding whether to intervene personally.

The Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Thailand was likely to ease the death penalty it had to the two Israeli nationals convicted of smuggling drugs, if the two were to appeal the sentence.

Akronik and Makhlouf were caught with 23,000 ecstasy pills in their possession that they had smuggled from Europe. They had planned to take the drugs from Thailand to sell in Japan, Australia and the United States.

Thai police also arrested a number of other Israelis in the same operation, but they were later released when it became clear they had no connection with the incident.

The Foreign Ministry said it is aware of all developments in the affair and is in contact with the pair's families. The Israeli embassy in Thailand has already intervened and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said she would personally intervene if necessary.

Ministry sources said an appeal would probably result in the death sentence being commuted to a prison term. "In recent years, no death sentence has been carried out in Thailand, and especially not against foreign nationals," explained one.

If the sentence were commuted to jail time, the two would have to serve the first third of it in Thailand, but could then be transferred to an Israeli jail, under the terms of an Israeli-Thai treaty.

As in many other countries, foreign nationals are tried according to the Thai legal code, even if they committed a felony against another foreign national.

In 1997, a Thai court sentenced to death another two Israelis, who had been arrested in 1995 on suspicion of trying to smuggle 2.8 kilos of cocaine. Then president Ezer Weitzman lobbied the Thai king, eventually securing their release.

Meanwhile, it emerged Tuesday that Haifa Police arrested three months ago Israeli members of a gang that smuggled billions of dollars worth of cocaine internationally.