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Israel detains Haifa man for alleged spying

May 10, 2010 4:39 P.M. (Updated: May 13, 2010 10:56 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - A Palestinian citizen of Israel was detained by Israeli forces on Thursday, two weeks after authorities handed down a travel ban imposed by Israel's Interior Ministry.

Amir Makhoul, director of Ittijah and chairman of the Popular Committee for the Defense of the Political Freedoms, was arrested by Israeli forces on 6 May during a raid of his home, noting that police raided the offices of the organization, confiscating equipment and documents.

The move sparked protests among Palestinians living in Israel, set to rally in Haifa on Monday condemning Makhoul's arrest and that of Omar Said, a member of the Balad movement, on 24 April. The demonstration will further highlight political repression of the Palestinian minority, the Free Ameer Makhoul blog said.

Israeli media said a gag order preventing news outlets in the country from reporting the detention was lifted late Sunday evening. Information was then released that both men were arrested on charges of spying and contact with a foreign agent from Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

A statement from the Arab Association for Human Rights, whose board member Hussein Abu Hussein is representing Makhoul, said on 6 May at 6am the Israeli General Security Service (GSS or the Shabak) accompanied by Israeli police raided the Makhoul's home in Haifa with a warrant for his arrest.

The police conducted an extensive search of the house and confiscated items including cell phones and computers, the statement said, adding that according to his wife, Janan, security forces refused to identify themselves and only following her insistence showed her the arrest warrant, which stated that the arrest was for "security reasons."

A hearing took place the same day at the Petah Tikva Court, where Makhoul's detention was extended for six days. The statement said Makhoul is being prevented from meeting with his lawyer, even in court. "By not having access to his lawyer, Mr Makhoul is being prevented from fair legal procedures."

Makhoul's brother Assam, a former MK for Hadash, said the family had no details of the investigation but they suspected authorities had singled out the activist because of his campaigns against the government's "racist and discriminatory polices" against the Palestinian minority in Israel, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

On 22 April Makhoul was handed down an administrative order issued by the Israeli Interior Minister, prohibiting him from leaving the country for a period of two months.

In an article published by the online news site Electronic Intifada, Makhoul said "the travel ban imposed on me is part of an increased campaign to intimidate and to spread fear among Palestinian civil society. The repression is meant to divide us, but it has had the opposite effect. We Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and the diaspora are only more determined and united to claim our rights and to build a nation where we can live in freedom and have equal rights."

"Leaders of the Palestinian civil society, like myself, are under attack. Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic movement, is being persecuted for his involvement in the protection of Jerusalem from ongoing Israeli colonization and extremist settlers."

The detentions have been widely condemned by international organizations, with the HRA describing Makhoul's arrest as "a flagrant violation of fundamental freedoms ... the arrest warrant and prohibition order, which are based on emergency regulations, are arbitrary political decisions issued by the Interior Minister and are not legal decisions issued by the courts. These decisions lack the most basic human rights standards and due process of law, particularly as they are based on 'secret' evidence and the defense is prevented from viewing this evidence."
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