August 31, 2009 / 10:40 AM / 10 years ago

Israeli Arab accused of spying on army chief

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli Arab who belonged to the same health club as Israel’s military chief was accused on Monday of passing information about him to Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah.

Israel's army chief Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi addresses a conference on security issues in Tel Aviv in this December 12, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen

The allegations raised more questions about security around Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, two weeks after authorities disclosed that his credit card details and a gun in his office had been stolen by a soldier, now under arrest.

In the new case, prosecutors said Rawhi Sultani, a 23-year-old Arab citizen of Israel, attended a summer camp a year ago in Morocco, where he told a Hezbollah agent he and Ashkenazi exercised in the same gym in the town of Kfar Saba.

Sultani later met a second Hezbollah agent in Poland and gave him information about access to the health club and security arrangements for Ashkenazi there, the indictment said.

Sultani was charged with a series of security offences, including conveying information to an enemy agent and conspiracy to commit a crime.

The suspect’s father, Fouad Sultani, an attorney who represented him at Monday’s hearing, denied the allegations.

He said his son was not involved in any plot to harm Ashkenazi and had carried on an innocent conversation with a fellow student at the summer camp “who in retrospect, according to the indictment, was a member of Hezbollah”.

The lawyer confirmed that his son had belonged to the health club but told Israel Radio his membership expired a year ago.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a war in 2006. Israeli security officials have cautioned that the group could attack Israelis to avenge the killing in Syria last year of Hezbollah’s military mastermind, Imad Moughniyeh.

Hezbollah accused Israel of assassinating Moughniyeh. Israel denied involvement in the deadly car-bombing in Damascus.

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