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Arab businessman, accused of spying for Iran, ordered released to house arrest

Decision comes after questions raised over seriousness of information allegedly conveyed by Yaqoub Abu al-Qia’an, a former Knesset candidate held since June

Bedouin businessman Yaqoub Abu al-Qia’an in court, on July 12, 2021. (Flash90)
Bedouin businessman Yaqoub Abu al-Qia’an in court, on July 12, 2021. (Flash90)

An Arab Israeli millionaire who briefly ran for Knesset with former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon was ordered to be released to house arrest on Tuesday, as he awaits trial on accusations of spying on Israel for Iran.

Yaqoub Abu al-Qia’an, a former politician and Bedouin construction magnate from the northern Negev, has been in jail since June, when he was arrested on suspicion of passing material to a Lebanese-Iraqi man who acted as a go-between for Iranian intelligence figures, according to the Shin Bet security service.

Abu al-Qia’an was indicted at the Southern District Court in Beersheba in July on charges of contact with a foreign agent and passing information to an enemy.

But questions have arisen regarding the severity of his alleged actions, with his attorneys noting that information he is accused of passing regarding the movements of Defense Minister Benny Gantz and economic activity with the Gulf was already publicly available.

In late August, the Supreme Court ordered the Beersheba District Court to rethink a decision by judge Dina Cohen to order Abu al-Qia’an be held behind bars for the remainder of the proceedings.

On Monday, Beersheba District Court judge Nasser Abu Taha overturned Cohen’s decision and agreed to release Abu al-Qia’an to his home in the southern Bedouin city of Rahat.

Abu al-Qia’an will be required to wear an electronic tracker at all times and will be forbidden from using technological devices to communicate with the outside, the judge ruled.

He will not be released until Wednesday, to give the state a chance to appeal the decision.

In 2019, Ya’alon put Abu al-Qia’an onto his Telem party’s slate for the March election of that year. He was never officially registered and did not ultimately make it into the running for Knesset after Telem merged with two other parties to form the Blue and White coalition.

He was arrested on June 10 and held in custody without being able to contact his attorneys for several weeks. His case was only reported in July, once a gag order was lifted.

During the investigation, the Shin Bet determined that Abu al-Qia’an had been in prolonged contact with Lebanon’s Haidar al-Mashhadani, a fixer for Iranian intelligence.

Screen capture from video of Yaqoub Abu Al-Qia’an, charged with national security offenses for passing information to Iran, seen in the Beersheeba District Court, on July 12, 2021. (Twitter)

“As part of these contacts, Abu al-Qia’an provided updates of what was going on in Israel,” the security service said. It alleged that he also sought meeting with other Iranians working with al-Mashhadani.

Aside from the intelligence information passed between the sides, the contacts also focused on potential business opportunities in various Arab countries in the region, according to the Shin Bet.

The security service said that the case came to light as part of its ongoing activities in recent years to thwart attempts by Iran and its proxy, the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, to enlist the help of Israelis in the country and abroad in order to attack senior Israeli figures in the defense establishment and to gather information.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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