Israel arrests prominent Arabs on Hezbollah spying charges

Omar Sayid

Omar Sayid

Israeli authorities have arrested two prominent Arab-Israeli political activists, accusing them of spying on behalf of Lebanese Shiite organization Hezbollah. The arrestees are Omar Sayid (or Sayeed), who campaigns on behalf of Israeli-Arab political party Balad, and Amir Makhoul, who heads Ittijah. This Haifa-based group, known as the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, aims to combat alleged cases of discrimination against Arab-Israelis. Sayid was arrested by members of the Israeli police and intelligence agency Shin Bet on April 24, and Makhoul was arrested on May 6. But the Israeli media were not allowed to report on the arrests until late last Sunday, due to Israeli censorship laws enforced in “national security investigations”. Nevertheless, news of the arrests began circulating almost immediately on Arab electronic media outside of Israel, and the Israeli government was eventually forced to lift the gag order, upon learning that hundreds of Haifa residents were preparing a demonstration on Monday in support of the two arrestees. Little more has emerged on the arrests and pending prosecutions, though Israeli law enforcement sources have indicated that both Sayid and Makhoul will probably be charged with “serious security offenses, including espionage and contact with a foreign agent from Hezbollah”. But the men’s legal representatives have accused the Israeli government of using “draconian” espionage laws to hamper the two activists’ peaceful political work. Their lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, told Israeli media that “espionage laws in Israel were so wide-ranging that an internet chat or telephone conversation with anyone in an ‘enemy state’ could lead to prosecution”.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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