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Jewish Iranian deported from Israel for attempted espionage

The man was instructed to gather intel on various targets, which were to be revealed by his handler after he landed at Ben-Gurion Airport.

Ben-Gurion International Airport, May 2014. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Ben-Gurion International Airport, May 2014. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Israeli authorities on Friday deported a Jewish-Iranian man suspected of attempting to spy for the Islamic Republic, according to the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet).

The man, who has relatives in Israel, was detained by agents upon landing at Ben-Gurion International Airport. During questioning he admitted to traveling to the Jewish state to spy for Tehran and was quickly sent back to the Islamic Republic via a third country.

According to the agency, the man was instructed by Iranian operatives to gather intel on various targets, which were to be revealed by his handler after he landed. He was given an empty tissue box in which to hide surveillance equipment, including a cell phone and power source.

“It is estimated that these means were handed to him in order to carry out secret espionage on targets in Israel,” the Shin Bet said. “This incident is part of a broad Iranian effort to establish espionage and terror [networks] in Israel, alongside the influence on the Internet to widen social divides.”

On Wednesday, the Jerusalem District Court acquitted two Israeli citizens—a man and a woman—of charges they spied for Iran, while convicting a third, a woman, of a lesser offense, putting an end to a case that made headlines nationwide last year.

The three suspects, all Persian-speaking Israelis born in the Islamic Republic, stood trial on charges of contact with a foreign agent and providing information that could be useful to an enemy state.

The Shin Bet alleged that the suspects were approached on Facebook by “Rambod Namdar,” who claimed to be a Jewish man living in Iran.

Some of the defendants had corresponded with “Namdar” for years. He asked them for their phone numbers and then continued the conversations on Facebook, asking them to perform various tasks in exchange for sums amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.

Two other women who were in touch with “Rambod” were already cleared of all charges at an earlier stage of the investigation.

Judge Ilan Sela said on Wednesday that “there is no doubt that these are Zionist individuals, in love with the country, who at no time intended to harm its security.”

He continued: “The relations between the defendants and the foreign agent were established without them knowing his true identity,” adding that “innocent and good people are often taken advantage of by parties … who are plotting evil against them or their country.”

The third defendant, a 40-year-old woman from Holon, was found guilty of contact with an enemy agent, as she had confessed to Shin Bet investigators that she had suspected the man she was in contact with had links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

She admitted to covertly photographing the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv before it was moved to Jerusalem in May 2018, as well as the inside of the offices of the Interior Ministry, and of the National Insurance Institute in her hometown.

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