Israeli Arab jailed for spying on army chief at gym

JERUSALEM- A young Israeli Arab on Tuesday was sentenced to almost six years in jail for spying on Israel's armed forces chief for Lebanon's Hezbollah militia at the gym where they both worked out.
Rawi Fuad Sultani, 23, passed on information on Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi to foreign agents, according to a plea bargain agreement between the state and Sultani.
"There is no doubt the indictment represents a serious case of contact with a Hezbollah agent and transferring information to the enemy," said a court in the city of Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv.

Israel's armed forces chief Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi in Ankara in March. (Adem Altan/AFP)
Israel's armed forces chief Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi in Ankara in March. (Adem Altan/AFP)
The court agreed to a relatively lenient jail term of 68 months for an espionage conviction, noting Sultani had not initiated the contact with the Hezbollah agents.
The agreement, however, dropped charges of conspiracy to commit a crime. The initial indictment had accused Sultani of plotting to assassinate Ashkenazi to avenge the killing of a Hezbollah military commander, Imad Mugnieh.
Mugnieh was killed in a February 2008 car bombing in Damascus, a strike widely blamed on Israel.
Sultani is said to have admitted to meeting a Hezbollah activist in Morocco one year ago and before that in December 2008, when he flew to Poland and met another Hezbollah member to pass on information he had collected on Ashkenazi.
However, Sultani's father, who was also his defence lawyer, said the case was blown out of proportion because it involved an Arab.
"If the case was as serious as it has been made out to be, we could have expected a lot harsher punishment," said Fuad Sultani.
"He is paying too harsh a price because the treatment he received from the security establishment and the media was not proportional," the father told reporters.
A 2006 war between Israel and the Iranian-backed Shiite group Hezbollah killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers.
Over the past 12 months, Beirut has launched a crackdown on espionage rings, arresting dozens of suspected Israeli spies. At the end of March, four people were charged with passing on information about Lebanon's army and Hezbollah.

Tuesday, April 6th 2010

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