Tuesday, 3 March, 2009

Israeli Arab accused of planning to spy for Hezbollah

Israeli Arab accused of planning to spy for Hezbollah

By Eli Ashkenazi

An Israeli citizen suspected of being a prospective Hezbollah spy was indicted yesterday on charges of contact with a foreign agent.

Ismail Saleiman, a 27-year-old man from the Jezreel Valley town of Hajajra, is suspected of being in contact with a Hezbollah operative and planning to spy on Israel for the terror group. Advertisement

Police and the Shin Bet security service arrested him February 5, but the incident was placed under gag order until yesterday, when Saleiman was indicted in the Nazareth District Court.

Saleiman's lawyer, Smadar Ben-Natan, said yesterday her client never had any intention of causing damage to Israel's security.

"The person from Hezbollah initiated contact with him when he was in Mecca and pestered him," she said. "The main story here is how Hezbollah is tripping up Israeli Arabs who travel to Islamic holy sites."

Saleiman had been due to begin collecting information for Hezbollah about military bases in Israel five months after his return to the country, as long as his ties to the group were not exposed by then, according to an arrangement the indictment states Saleiman reached with a Hezbollah representative known as Abu Qassam.

According to the indictment, Saleiman agreed to work for Hezbollah during a meeting with Abu Qassam in Saudi Arabia, while Saleiman was on pilgrimage to Mecca about six months ago. The charge sheet states that Abu Qassam came up to Saleiman and his friends and asked them if they were from Israel. The same day, he allegedly arranged a meeting with Saleiman, during which he recruited him after asking about the suspect's religious beliefs, attitude toward the Second Lebanon War and ability to collect information in Israel.

Saleiman is accused of giving Abu Qassam, who said he was a Palestinian living in Lebanon, his phone number and e-mail address, and the two allegedly agreed that they would exchange only seemingly innocent emails.

However, Saleiman did not reply to three e-mails Abu Qassam sent, initiating contact only in the wake of the war in Gaza, the indictment states. At the time of Saleiman's arrest, Abu Qassam had not responded to the e-mail.

Ben-Natan emphasized that Saleiman is charged only with contact with a foreign agent, and added that the indictment "notes that the agent attempted to initiate contact with [Saleiman] several times, and the accused did not respond."

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