Court releases details of Lebanese spy affair

Thursday, 10 May 2001
Ha'aretz (Itim)

The Acre Magistrates Court yesterday permitted the full publication of the details of a case of espionage carried out on behalf of Lebanese elements against Israel. Three suspects in the case are being held in custody, one of them an Israeli citizen. Permission for the publication of the affair was given following a request by the Itim news agency and the daily Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

The three suspects in custody are Banua Habib, 33, an Israeli Arab working in a bank at Kafr Gush Haleb; Asad al-Ilm, 45, a former South Lebanon Army (SLA) soldier who now resides in the northern town of Nahariya; and Jean Igris, 48, from southern Lebanon, who was a close associate of Hashem Akel, a senior SLA commander killed in a bomb blast believed to have been organized by Hezbollah.

The three allegedly made contact with hostile elements in Lebanon and passed on information which are harmful to state security.

Two of the suspects, Habib and al-Ilm, have been under arrest since 18 April.

Habib denied the charges brought against him in court. However he did admit that he knows Igris and al-Ilm and has been friends with them for the last 20 years. "If they did something wrong in my house, they did it without me knowing and behind my back," Habib told the court.

Al-Ilm and Igris are suspected of sending information to hostile elements through the facsimile machine in Habib's home.

The defense attorney for Igris noted that his client came to Israel a year ago, following the IDF withdrawal from southern Lebanon, and that he had served in the office of Colonel Hashem Akel, and was his close associate and trusted friend. Igris served 25 years in the SLA.

During questioning, Igris admitted to have made telephone contact with a friend in Lebanon, knowing that his friend did not belong to a hostile organization, but that he was affiliated with Lebanese officials.

Igris says that he was promised that if he carried out certain activities, he would be able to return to his country.

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