July 28, 2010 / 6:52 PM / 9 years ago

Lebanon charges 2nd telco worker with Israel spying

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A Lebanese prosecutor on Wednesday charged a employee at state-owned mobile phone firm Alfa with spying for Israel and referred him to military court, judicial sources said.

They added that if Tareq Raba’a was convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Raba’a was arrested on July 12, two weeks after security authorities arrested Charbel Qazzi, a senior employee at Alfa, on suspicion of spying for Israel in a case that shocked Lebanon, which is in a formal state of war with the Jewish state.

Qazzi has also been charged with espionage and referred to a military court. If convicted, he could face a death sentence.

“Raba’a has been charged today and referred to military court. (If convicted) he would get death (sentence),” a judicial source told Reuters. Other sources confirmed the move.

Lebanon has described the arrests as a major blow to Israel’s intelligence gathering in the country and said many suspects helped identify targets in Lebanon that Israel bombed during its 2006 war with militant group Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has suggested Israel could have used telecom agents to manipulate evidence such as phone records to implicate the group in the 2005 killing of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri.

Security sources described Raba’a as a telecoms engineer who had been employed at Alfa since 1996. They said he was suspected of starting working for Israeli intelligence in 2001 and said he used to leave Lebanon twice a month, returning each time with at least $10,000 cash.

The two arrests are part of a broad espionage investigation that has led to more than 50 arrests since April last year. Israel has made no comment.

Qazzi’s arrest last month shocked the country and prompted debate on how deeply Israel had infiltrated Lebanon’s telecoms and security sectors.

President Michel Suleiman, who under Lebanese law must sign a death sentence before it is carried out, has called for severe punishment for spies. The cabinet has agreed that death sentences handed down to spies for Israel should be carried out.

Lebanese courts have until now handed down what were widely seen as light sentences against nationals who worked with Israeli occupation forces and their local militias. Israel ended its 22-year occupation of mainly Shi’ite south Lebanon in 2000.

Writing by Mariam Karouny, editing by Mark Heinrich

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