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Lebanon: Activist sentenced to 3 years labour over alleged Israel ties

Lebanese activist Kinda Al-Khatib, [LebanonaME/Twitter]
Lebanese activist Kinda Al-Khatib, 14 December 2020 [LebanonaME/Twitter]

A Lebanese activist was sentenced on Monday to three years hard labour for allegedly travelling to and having ties with Israel, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.

Kinda Al-Khatib, 23, was arrested on charges of "collaborating with the enemy", "entering the occupied Palestinian territories" and "collaborating with spies of the Israeli enemy".

Israel and Lebanon are technically at war and each state bans its citizens from visiting the other. Communicating with someone based in Israel is also considered illegal in Lebanon.

Al-Khatib, who was arrested in June, has rejected the allegations claiming only that an Israeli journalist who she did not know had contacted her on Twitter.

A September indictment, however, claimed Al-Khatib wanted to see the border between Israel and Lebanon opened, pro-Hezbollah daily Al-Akbar reported.

The indictment also accused Al-Khatib of offering the self-proclaimed Jewish state advice on how to improve its image in Lebanon and claimed she had facilitated an interview between an Israeli channel and Charbel Hage, a Lebanese government opponent based in the US.

Al-Khatib was later accused of providing security information about Lebanon to a Kuwaiti intelligence officer who she met near the Dead Sea, the New Arab reported.

READ: Ex-Lebanon PM refuses to be questioned over Beirut blast

Friends and family of Al-Khatib have termed her arrest and prison sentence "political" saying it was caused by her online criticism of Hezbollah and other Lebanese political forces, including President Michel Aoun.

In June, Al-Khatib's family claimed a file on the 23-year-old had been prepared by security forces before her arrest.

They also insist the 23-year-old's Twitter account was hacked and used to promote anti-Hezbollah opinions.

"There is complete ambiguity about her file, and they did not allow us to communicate with her, except for the moment she was transferred via the military police in Beirut," her sister Yasmine told Al-Modon.

On Al-Khatib's trip to Jordan, where was accused of crossing into Israel, her sister said: "She travelled to Jordan with Bandar Tours at the invitation of one of her friends and they returned to Lebanon after about four days."

"It is strange that during the investigations they accused her of entering the occupied territories eight times, then three times, then only once."

Al-Khatib's arrest came as several activists in Lebanon were being detained over social media posts criticising the government for its failure to address the economic crisis and coronavirus pandemic.

Parallels have been drawn between Al-Khatib's case and that of Ziad Itani, an actor who was accused of collaborating with Israel in 2017.

Within months, Itani was found innocent and released. A senior security officer was later accused of fabricating the entire case.

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