October 27, 2010 - 12:00am

JERUSALEM, Oct 27 (Reuters) - An Israeli-Arab human rights activist was convicted of spying for the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah by an Israeli court on Wednesday.
Amir Makhoul confessed to the charge as part of a plea bargain under which the Haifa District Court dropped a separate charge of aiding the enemy in time of war, for which he could have been sentenced to a much longer term, court papers showed.
The spying charge carries a maximum 10-year jail term.
Makhoul had initially pleaded not guilty to the charges after his arrest in April, but agreed to enter a new plea in exchange for the reduced charges and also to drop his previous complaints of maltreatment while under interrogation.
Makhoul is director of Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community Based Organisations, a network of Arab NGOs in Israel. He is due to be sentenced in December.
"Many of the serious charges against me have evaporated," Makhoul said to reporters as he sat in court.
Israeli human rights groups had accused Israel of denying Makhoul due process at the time of his arrest, saying he was denied access to an attorney for 12 days and that a court gag order barred publication of his arrest for days.
Israeli media say Makhoul had been accused of passing information to Hezbollah on the accuracy of its rocket fire during a 2006 war.
Israel and the Iranian-allied Lebanese group fought a 34-day war which killed 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 158 Israelis, mostly soldiers. (Writing by Ori Lewis and Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Alison Williams)


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