[Ppnews] The Torture of Ameer Makhoul
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri May 28 11:58:36 EDT 2010
May 28 - 30, 2010
Lawyers Say Spying Confession Inadmissable
The Torture of Ameer Makhoul
By JONATHAN COOK
A leading human rights activist from Israel's Palestinian Arab
minority was charged yesterday with the most serious security
offences on Israel's statute book, including espionage.
Prosecutors indicted Ameer Makhoul, the head of Ittijah, an umbrella
organisation for Arab human rights groups in Israel, with spying on
security facilities on behalf of Hizbollah after an alleged meeting
with one of its agents in Denmark in 2008.
Mr Makhoul, who had been held incommunicado by Israel's secret
police, the Shin Bet, for much of the time since his arrest three
weeks ago, appeared in court and pleaded not guilty. In his first
public statement, he told the court: "The Shin Bet controls the
Israeli justice system."
As a gag order was lifted on the case, his lawyers said Mr Makhoul
had been tortured during his detention, including being told by
interrogators that they would leave him "disabled". The three lawyers
said he had been forced to make a false confession, which they would
argue was inadmissible.
Mr Makhoul's arrest had angered many in Israel's Palestinian
minority, nearly a fifth of the population, who suspect he is being
persecuted for his leading role in promoting internationally the
boycott movement against Israel and his prominent opposition to
Israel's attack on Gaza nearly 18 months ago.
He has been backed by human rights groups abroad, including Amnesty
International, which declared him a prisoner of conscience and
accused Israel of "pure harassment".
Mr Makhoul's brother, Issam, a former MP for a joint Jewish-Arab
party, told Israel Radio yesterday that Mr Makhoul had been
threatened by the Shin Bet back in January 2009, shortly after he
organised protests against the Gaza attack. The Shin Bet had told him
that they would frame him and "make him disappear", Issam Makhoul said.
Mr Makhoul's wife, Janan, who saw her husband in court for the first
time since he had been arrested, said he was in constant pain and had
impaired vision. She added: "He is very exhausted and he told me
about the torture he underwent in his interrogation. Thirty-six hours
without sleep tied to a chair stuck to the floor."
Mr Makhoul, 52, is charged with assistance to the enemy in a time of
war, conspiracy to assist an enemy, aggravated espionage and contact
with a foreign agent. According to the indictment, he passed on
"strategic intelligence" to Hizbollah agents on at least 10 occasions
via encrypted e-mails.
The militant Lebanese group is said to have used Mr Makhoul, whose
organisation is based in the northern city of Haifa, to provide
information on security installations in the north.
Mr Makhoul is alleged to have provided details of the locations of
two Shin Bet facilities, a Mossad office, a military base and a
Rafael armaments factory, as well as trying unsuccessfully to gather
information on the security arrangements of Benjamin Netanyahu, the
prime minister, and Ehud Barak, the defence minister.
A senior Shin Bet officer told the liberal Haaretz newspaper: "Part
of the information that Makhoul transferred could be delivered by
anyone with a pair of eyes and Google Earth [a computer program
providing satellite images]. But Makhoul, as an Israeli Arab, has
freedom of movement and access across Israel."
Prosecutors also accused him of passing on the names of six Israelis
as potential spies and providing analysis of trends in Israeli
politics and society.
Hizbullah, prosecutors suggested, was especially keen to learn about
its success in hitting Israeli security installations with rockets
during its military confrontation with Israel in 2006.
In a related case, Omar Said, 50, a pharmacologist and political
activist, was charged yesterday in a Nazareth court with contacting
and transferring information to Hizbollah after meeting an agent in
the Sinai resort of Sharm El Sheikh. He denied the allegations and
said he too had been forced into making a confession.
Hassan Jaja, a Lebanese businessman living in Jordan, is alleged to
have initiated contacts between Hizbollah and Mr Said and Mr Makhoul.
The Adalah legal centre, which represents Mr Makhoul, said his
indictment was based on a confession extracted during nearly two
weeks in which he was denied a lawyer, kept in a small isolation
cell, deprived of sleep and food, and shackled in a painful position
to a small chair.
The combination of methods, known in Hebrew as the "Shabeh", created
high levels of mental stress and acute, continuous physical pain,
said Abir Baker, a lawyer with Adalah. The interrogation method
violates international law and was banned by Israel's supreme court in 1999.
Hasan Jabareen, head of Adalah, said that, when Mr Makhoul complained
of serious pain, the interrogators tied him even tighter, threatening
that he would be "left disabled".
Issam Makhoul said the family was concerned that the court had denied
his lawyers the right to see a medical report from a state physician
who visited him twice during his interrogation.
Ms Baker said recent amendments to Israel's security laws had given
the Shin Bet "dangerous powers" to deny suspects the right to see a
lawyer for up to 21 days, with limited judicial oversight.
Such powers were being used almost exclusively against Palestinian
citizens held in detention, she said, though the state had refused to
provide figures on how frequently the law was being employed.
She said, during periods when suspects could not see a lawyer,
interrogators were more likely to use illegal torture methods.
A report by the Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper in January 2009
supports Issam Makhoul's claim that his brother was threatened in an
earlier Shin Bet interrogation. Mr Makhoul told the paper at the time
that a Shin Bet officer "called me a rebel threatening the security
of the state during time of war and said he would be happy to
transfer me to Gaza".
Mr Makhoul's case, said Mohammed Zeidan, head of the Human Rights
Association in Nazareth, had left everyone in Israel's human rights
community "afraid". "The Shin Bet wanted to take him out of the game
and they have succeeded," he said. "Ameer has been disappeared."
Mr Zeidan added that the case had strong echoes of what he called
recent "unwarranted legal assaults" by the Shin Bet on two other
Palestinian leaders in Israel.
Sheikh Raed Salah, of the popular Islamic Movement, was arrested in
2003 and spent two years in jail awaiting trial on charges of
assisting a terror organisation before he was released in a plea
bargain in which he admitted only financial misdemeanours.
Since 2007 Azmi Bishara, the leader of the Balad party, has been in
exile after he was accused of espionage while out of the country.
Critics say the Shin Bet effectively silenced him without having to
"It has become clear over the past few years that this could happen
to any of us," he said.
On Wednesday, in a related development, the parliament passed the
first reading of a "loyalty bill", introduced by the far-right
Yisrael Beiteinu party, that would strip anyone found guilty of
espionage of their citizenship.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel.
His latest books are
and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the
Middle East" (Pluto Press) and
Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair" (Zed Books). His
website is <http://www.jkcook.net>www.jkcook.net.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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