Israeli-Arab peace activist, Ameer Makhoul, from Haifa in northern Israel, was arraigned on Wednesday in an Israeli court on a variety of charges ranging from ‘contacting a foreign agent’ to ‘spying for Hezbollah. Makhoul, who says he was tortured while in an Israeli prison, believes the charges against him are politically motivated.Makhoul heads the Union of Arab Community-Based Organizations, a network of organizations that work for equal rights for Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. These Palestinians make up 20% of the population of Israel, and have been called a ‘demographic threat’ by current Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman has openly advocated a policy of expulsion of non-Jews, including those indigenous to the land, from what is now the state of Israel.
According to Ameer Makhoul, he was abducted by Israeli forces from his home in May, and held for twelve days under extreme duress before he was allowed to speak with a lawyer. At Wednesday’s indictment, Makhoul accepted a plea agreement that will result in him serving from seven to ten years in an Israeli prison.
In addition to Makhoul has claimed, with medical documentation, that he was tortured while in custody, and has also submitted documentation to the Israeli Attorney General’s office in July that his confidential sessions with his lawyers had been illegally wiretapped.
Based on the complaint, Israeli authorities violated provision 45 of the Prisons Ordinance which states: “A prisoner is entitled to meet his lawyer in order to receive professional service. A prisoner will meet his lawyer privately, and under conditions that secure the confidentiality of discussions and documents that will be exchanged in the meeting, but in a way that enables supervision of the prisoner’s movements.”
Evidence against Makhoul appears to be flimsy. According to his lawyers, the Israeli justice system has more to do with the political climate than the evidence, and without the plea deal Makhoul could have faced a much longer prison term.
On Wednesday, Orna Kohn, one of Makhoul’s lawyers, reported him saying, ‘in any other country these charges would not be considered sufficient for an indictment.’ Kohn added that, considering the present political climate, the plea agreement was the best legal option for Makhoul under Israeli law given Israel’s security concerns, and in light of the history of rulings in Israeli courts dealing with such charges.
The Israeli peace activist is scheduled to be sentenced on December 3rd of this year.