A Swedish national recruited by Hezbollah has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for spying for the Lebanese terror group, Israel’s Central District Court said Sunday.
Following a plea bargain reached with the state, Lebanon-born Hassan Khalil Hizran, 55, was found guilty of passing information to a foreign agent, but more serious charges of direct contact with a terrorist group and active involvement in terror activities were dropped.
Hizran’s indictment said he was recruited by the terror group in 2009 while on a trip to Lebanon with his family. He returned to Lebanon in 2011 and 2013 for meetings with Hezbollah leaders.
The Shin Bet security agency said he was tasked with recruiting Israelis to the terror group, “with an emphasis on those with ties to Jews, or access to army personnel, the defense establishment, or government officials.” The Shin Bet said he was also ordered to gather information about army bases and IDF targets and convey information to Hezbollah about Ben Gurion Airport security.
Hizran was paid $2,300 in 2009 and $800 in 2011 for his services to Hezbollah, according to the Shin Bet.
A statement released by the court attributed the relatively low prison time to Hizran’s communication with Hezbollah was “reserved and modest” and carried out with “low motivation.”
“When he tried to put an end to the meetings, he was put under a huge amount of pressure. He was threatened that he would not be able to return to Sweden where he lived and told his Lebanese family would be punished,” the statement said. “In addition, he did not provide [Hezbollah] all the information he was required to and therefore minimized the security damage.”
Hizran was arrested in July upon landing at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport. Following his arrest, he was indicted for handing over information to the terror group, having contact with a foreign agent, and accepting funds from Hezbollah.
According to Swedish media, Hizran was with his family at the time of his arrest, but was the only one detained. His family said he was denied access to a lawyer for 10 days, and maintained they have not been permitted to visit him. His son, who is now in Sweden, said his father had traveled to Israel several times before. Upon entering Israel during his earlier trips, Hizran was questioned at the airport but not detained, his relatives said.
The Shin Bet statement said at the time that Hizran’s mission proves Hezbollah is seeking to recruit Israeli agents and foreign nationals with access to both Lebanon and Israel.
“Hezbollah’s interest in the entry process and inspections at Ben Gurion Airport indicates Hezbollah’s desire to identify the loopholes in the process, which will allow it to get its people into Israel undisturbed and without falling under suspicion,” a Shin Bet statement said. “Hezbollah’s interest in army bases and IDF targets proves once again that Hezbollah is gearing up for the next campaign with Israel, and is marking these targets in its ‘bank of targets.’”
Marissa Newman contributed to this report.