Israeli Arab writer and activist Ameer Makhoul was sentenced to nine years behind bars on Sunday on charges of contacting a foreign agent, conspiring to assisting an enemy in a time of war, and aggravated espionage for Hezbollah, after previously admitting to accusation and signing a plea bargain.
Judges Yosef Elron, Moshe Gilad and Avraham Elyakim addressed the severity of the charges in the sentencing. "Whether the accused operated because of an ideological motive or a material one, we would not expect such a person as the accused to befriend our worst enemy."
The judges added, "There is no need to be verbose about this organization, its fight against the existence of this state, and the desire to harm the State and its citizens without distinguishing between religion, race or nationality."
The judges were also amazed at Makhoul's claims. "The question is how a man of his status, rooted in society and very active both publicly and social, how can such a man commit serious security offenses and ask to see it as 'naïve' on his part or a 'trap' he fell into."
Accusations of political persecution
Makhoul was escorted to court by his wife, daughters and relatives. His brother, former Knesset Member Issam Makhoul, told Ynet: "This is not about harming State security. They are trying to hurt his freedom of expression. This is political persecution against a man who has contributed so much and didn't try to harm the State. He acted according to the law."
Makhoul's wife added: "My husband is being punished severely today for supporting social and political justice. He has been wronged and by his sentencing they are trying to scare the Arabic population in Israel."
Makhoul. 'Forced reality' (Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv)
Makhoul himself spoke out prior to his sentencing: "Any sentence will be considered in my eyes to be cruel and vindictive against the Arab population and its legitimate battle here and across the world. The court must prove whether they are a courthouse or the Shin Bet, a place of justice or the backyard of the Shin Bet. I've admitted to the charges as part of a forced reality, and I intend to continue my legitimate work for the Palestinian population in Israel."
The State Prosecutor's Office removed the most serious charge – assisting an enemy in a time of war – as a result of the bargain, and charges against him now carry a maximum prison sentence of seven to 10 years.
The state claims that Makhoul's admission has put an end to accusations of political persecution, some of which were voiced by Makhoul's attorneys during his time in detainment.
Makhoul, 52, was arrested in May, and criticism of the manner of the late-night detainment immediately ensued.
The indictment against Makhoul says he met with Hezbollah agents during his travels and, on at least 10 separate occasions, handed them information on the location of Mossad and Rafael facilities. He also attempted, unsuccessfully, to gain knowledge of the Shin Bet chief's residence.
In addition, Makhoul was accused of trying to hand over videos of a terror attack attempted in a Haifa mall and in general attempting to enlighten the terror organization on the weaknesses of the Israeli home front.
Makhoul and his family continued to claim the trial was an attempt to settle accounts with an innocent man because of his political activities and that the Shin Bet and police allegedly used wrongful means in order to extract a false confession.
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