Israel sentences Arab citizen who joined Syria's rebels

Israeli prosecutors accused him of undergoing small-arms training by Islamists there who asked him to carry out a suicide attack in Israel - although, by all accounts, he declined.

Israel sentences Arab citizen who joined Syria's rebels

World Bulletin / News Desk

Israel sentenced an Arab citizen to 30 months' imprisonment on Monday for endangering national security by briefly joining Syrian rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Hikmat Massarwa's case was unprecedented, and the relatively light penalty handed down to him as part of a plea bargain reflected Israel's indecision about who - if anyone - to back in its northern neighbour's civil war.

Massarwa was arrested on March 19 upon returning via Turkey from Syria, where he had spent a week at a rebel base.

Israeli prosecutors accused him of undergoing small-arms training by Islamists there who asked him to carry out a suicide attack in Israel - although, by all accounts, he declined.

Those charges carried a maximum 15-year jail term. But prosecutors appeared unable, from the outset, to throw the book at Massarwa because of Israeli haziness about the Syria crisis.

"There's no legal guidance regarding the rebel groups fighting in Syria," Judge Avraham Yaakov said at a session of the trial at Lod district court, south of Tel Aviv, in May.

Massarwa, a 29-year-old baker, at first denied wrongdoing, saying he had gone to Syria to seek a brother missing since joining the insurgency.

He also argued that the Western-backed anti-Assad rebels should not be regarded as a danger to Israel.

But, changing tack on Monday, Massarwa confessed to unlawfully travelling to a hostile state and meeting what prosecutors designated a "foreign agent". In turn, they dropped the count against him of illicitly receiving military training.

Under the plea bargain, Massarwa acknowledged his actions "had potential to threaten the security of the state of Israel".

Arabs, most of them Muslim, make up around 20 percent of Israel's population. 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 08 Temmuz 2013, 17:04
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