A Call for Support: The trial of Ameer Makhoul enters a new phase

The campaign to free Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and political and human rights activist falsely accused of espionage, has achieved significant advances. Makhoul’s attorneys challenged the legality of the circumstances of his arrest and undermined the prosecution’s core allegations against him on September 16th in the Haifa District Court. State Prosecutors admitted that no evidence of espionage had been found in any of the computers and cellular phones seized from Makhoul’s home and office. Nor was any evidence of espionage found, they admitted, in the transcripts of thirty thousand wiretapped telephone conversations.

Makhoul’s lawyers further secured a ruling from the Nazareth District Court, September 14th, upholding Makhoul’s right to direct and confidential access to counsel. Makhoul’s right to counsel as a citizen of Israel had been routinely violated by prison authorities, who had been officially and conspicuously wire-tapping his conversations, conducted across glass barriers via telephone, with his lawyers.

Background

Sixteen members of Israel Security Agency, commonly known in English as the Shin Bet, abducted Mr. Makhoul from his home at 3:00 am on May 6th, 2010. They searched his home and office, seizing personal items belonging to Makhoul and his family, as well as office equipment, documents and databases. Makhoul was detained incommunicado. A sweeping “gag order” was placed on the case forbidding publication by Israeli media of any information relating to the interrogation and the arrest. For twelve days he was subjected to torturous interrogation techniques including excessively prolonged sleep deprivation—a technique Makhoul’s interrogators have openly stated they used. When Makhoul complained of being in excruciating pain, the Shin Bet interrogators cuffed his legs to a chair with shortened legs and threatened that he would be permanently crippled from the interrogation.

Three weeks after his detention, Makhoul was charged with espionage, assistance to the enemy in a time of war, contact with a foreign agent, and other trumped up security charges. When he finally appeared in open court, Makhoul categorically denied the relevance of all charges against him.

On June 14th, State Prosecutors announced their possessing of ‘Secret Evidence’ against Makhoul. That evidence, they stated, would not be disclosed to his legal defense team for security reasons. Meanwhile, Makhoul’s repeated requests for a medical exam and blood test by an independent doctor from the Association of Physicians for Human Rights were continually postponed. Makhoul was unable to discuss these matters with his lawyers without having his conversations wiretapped.

Public Committee for the Defense of Ameer Makhoul Established

The Committee for the Defense of Ameer Makhoul was established in a public meeting held at the headquarters of the Galilee Society for Health Research and Services in Shafa Amr on September 8th. Participating in the meeting were 47 representatives of grassroots networks and professional associations, as well as concerned Jewish and Arab public figures. At this meeting, the Committee and those it represents assumed collective responsibility for the defense of Ameer Makhoul. It took such a step for the following reasons.

Ameer Makhoul was not arrested as an individual. He was not arrested due to any serious contention that he conducted illegal activities–let alone espionage. Makhoul was arrested to send a message to Palestinian citizens of Israel. That message was formulated by extreme right wing parties in the current Israeli government. They are targeting Makhoul because he is a legal, legitimate, and effective voice of a politically disadvantaged group –Israel’s Palestinian Arab citizens.

Makhoul has been a voice of this disadvantaged group of Israeli citizens in numerous public meetings around the world. He is internationally recognized as a human rights defender and as a member of international coalitions and networks of international and regional organizations. In his capacities as Chairman of the Public Committee for the Protection of Political Freedoms in Israel and as General Director of Ittijah –a network of Arab NGOs in Israel with consultative status in the United Nations Economic and Social Council —Makhoul regularly encounters and talks to citizens of foreign countries—including Arab countries. Simply talking to another Arab does not constitute espionage in the legal framework of Israel or any other country. But contacting an Arab colleague seems to be the core of the espionage charges against Makhoul.

In 2009, the Shin Bet promised Ameer Makhoul that they would “tailor a file for his disappearance and prolonged separation from his family” if he would not tone down his political and human rights activism. They were incensed by his legal, outspoken statements against Israel’s 2009 invasion of Gaza and his repeated reference to Israel’s use of phosphorus bombs against civilian populations in Gaza –including a majority of children. Spurious charges of espionage, the use of illegal interrogation techniques, and fabricated claims of evidence that evaporate in the open air seem to fulfill that threat to disappear Makhoul. Amnesty International has called his arrest and continued detention “pure harassment designed to hinder his human rights work.”

The Tasks at Hand for All of Us

The Committee for the Defense of Ameer Makhoul faces two urgent tasks. But first, we want to note what has already been achieved—despite all of the obstacles. A gag order against discussion of Makhoul’s case crumbled – thanks to appeals by the defense, community protest and solidarity and Israeli and foreign bloggers who ignored the order and opened the way to public pressure. The legal team has won important victories. Illegal practices of prison authorities that violated citizens’ right to counsel have been waylaid.

The obstacle presented by state prosecutors’ invocation of “secret evidence” to silence activists remains to be challenged and ultimately undermined. The incrimination of talking to foreigners must be challenged as well. Already, it has become a tiny bit harder, we hope, for Israel to lock up intellectuals and activists under vague charges of “contact with a foreign agent” in the global village of the internet era.

Now, we have urgent and specific tasks at hand. The Committee for the Defense of Ameer Makhoul is working to mobilize legal and medical international observers for the trial of Ameer Makhoul and to raise funds to cover lawyer fees and related expenses for Makhoul’s defense. We have launched local publicity and fundraising campaigns to achieve those goals. We need your help to make our efforts even more effective.

We reach out to the friends of Ameer and supporters of his work on behalf of Palestinian citizens of Israel and human rights victims everywhere. At this critical moment, we ask for your direct involvement in the campaign for his freedom. Ameer’s trial is scheduled to proceed Tuesday October 5th. The time is now for you to get involved.

All interested individuals and groups are invited to contact the Chairman of the Committee for the Defense of Ameer Makhoul: Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh – email:[email protected]

Checks can be made out to The Committee for Defense of Ameer Makhoul

Account details for direct bank transfers are as follows:

Bank: Arab Israel Bank- ltd.
Bank no.: 34.
Branch no.: 001 Haifa.
Beneficiary Name: The Committee for Defense of Ameer Makhoul- Haifa.
Account Humber IBAN= IL 890340010000000818780 (8187/80)
Swift Code: Lumiilittlv- 794 Branch

Online donations can be made through Pay pal.

About Hatim Kanaaneh

Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh is a Palestinian doctor who has worked for over 35 years to bring medical care to Palestinians in Galilee, against a culture of anti-Arab discrimination. He is the author of the book A Doctor in Galilee: The Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 6 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Avi says:

    Nor was any evidence of espionage found, they admitted, in the transcripts of thirty thousand wiretapped telephone conversations.

    Thirty Thousand (30,000) telephone conversations.

    That’s several months worth of wiretaps. And yet, despite all this, the Shin-Bet has got no substantial evidence against Ameer Makhoul.

    But I thought Alan Dershowitz had said that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.

    So, why is Israel torturing its own citizens, imprisoning them for months on end without access to legal counsel and threatening them and their loved?

    Besides, Israel’s constant attempts at isolating the Palestinian citizens of Israel from their relatives and families in the diaspora, in neighboring Arab countries and in the occupied territories are unconscionable.

    • RE: “I thought Alan Dershowitz had said that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.” – Avi
      MY COMMENT: I’m sure he says that when it serves his purpose(s), but apparently he personally is not too keen on the notion of Israel being a democracy! It sounds as though he might favor a military coup to remedy what he sees as too much democracy in Israel.
      FROM LOWENSTEIN 10/03/10: “The problem with Israel is that it’s too democratic”, he [Dershowitz] said last week on local radio [in Australia]. – link to mondoweiss.net

  2. potsherd says:

    This is the answer to the Zionist apologists who keep asking, “Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?”

    The Shin Bet is today’s KGB

    • Avi says:

      potsherd,

      Not to nit-pick, but I would say the Shin Bet, given it’s tactics and modus operandi, are more like the former East German Stasi.

  3. Thanks for this information. I made a modest donation via PayPal.

  4. Oscar Romero says:

    I will also make a small contribution. Thanks for the information. What a shame that we didn’t have these resources for Mordechai Vanunu.