Ex-legislator suspected of treason in Lebanon war

May 03, 2007|By Los Angeles Times

JERUSALEM -- An Arab former legislator is suspected of committing treason and espionage by giving advice to Hezbollah guerrillas during the war in Lebanon last summer, Israeli police officials said yesterday as they released new details of their investigation.

Azmi Bishara, an outspoken advocate for Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians, passed information to Hezbollah and encouraged the group to launch rockets deep into Israeli territory during the 34-day conflict, the police alleged.

Bishara, who is abroad and is considered a fugitive, resigned his position in the Israeli parliament last week as rough outlines of the police investigation began to leak out. He denied the allegations and accused Israel of a witch hunt in retaliation for his criticisms of the Jewish state's policies toward Arabs.

The former lawmaker offered no immediate comment yesterday on the new details.

Police have been releasing elements of their allegations against Bishara, 50, since a court partially lifted a gag order on the investigation last week. No formal charges against him have been made public.

Police believe Bishara counseled Hezbollah on wartime strategy against Israel, including recommending that its fighters fire rockets south of the port city of Haifa, about 20 miles south of the Lebanon border.

During the war, Hezbollah launched about 4,000 rockets, most of them short-range projectiles, causing widespread damage in northern Israel and dealing a heavy blow to morale nationwide. Israelis were especially shaken when longer-range weapons hit Haifa and points south of the city, Israel's third-largest. One salvo killed eight workers in a Haifa train shed.

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