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Lebanon sentences activist for allegedly collaborating with Israel

Family and activists have denounced Kinda al-Khatib's case as political because of her stance against parties in power
Prior to her arrest, Khatib had criticised Hezbollah on social media (Twitter)

Lebanon's military prosecution has sentenced prominent activist Kinda al-Khatib to three years in prison on Monday for allegedly collaborating with Israel and travelling to the country, a judicial source said.

Al-Khatib, who is in her twenties and had been active in anti-corruption protests, was arrested in June and charged with "collaborating with the enemy", "entering the occupied Palestinian territories" and "collaborating with spies of the Israeli enemy".

Lebanon is technically still at war with Israel and forbids its citizens from travelling to Israel and the territories it militarily occupies.

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A United Nations peacekeeping force patrols the border area between the neighbouring countries.

Khatib has rejected the accusations, according to Lebanon's National News Agency (NNA), saying she was contacted on Twitter by an Israeli journalist without being aware of his identity.

The sentence comes as Lebanon and Israel have been holding unprecedented talks on their disputed maritime borders in a bid to clear the way for oil and gas exploration.

"The military court... issued a ruling imposing a three-year prison sentence with hard labour on Kinda al-Khatib," the judicial source told AFP, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to comment on the issue. 

Prior to her arrest, Khatib had criticised Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese movement that fought a devastating 2006 war with Israel.

Her family and fellow activists have denounced her arrest as "political" because of her comments against political forces.

Lebanese media and activists have drawn a parallel between Khatib's case and that of actor Ziad Itani, who was also accused of collaborating with Israel in 2017.

Itani was declared innocent and released several months later, and a high-ranking security officer was then charged with "fabricating" the case.

Hezbollah is the only party not to have disarmed after Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war. Since then it has also become a major player in Lebanese politics.