Israel court jails Belgian for spying for Iran – AFP
Lod (Israel) (AFP) – An Israeli court sentenced an Iranian-born Belgian to seven years in prison Tuesday after convicting him of spying for Tehran posing as a businessman.
Ali Mansouri was arrested at Ben Gurion airport in 2013 as he attempted to leave the country carrying photographs of the US embassy in Tel Aviv and other sites, Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security service said.
He was sentenced for “aiding an enemy during war” and “espionage” on behalf of Iran’s elite Republican Guard, court documents showed.
Defence lawyer Avidgor Feldman said he did not expect to appeal.
“The court heard our arguments that the security of Israel was not compromised,” Feldman told reporters after the hearing in the central city of Lod.
“It was the Iranian secret services who put pressure on him and his family, and we feel that this verdict was rather fair and reasonable in view of the circumstances.”
Two armed guards led the handcuffed Mansouri into the dock, separated from the mostly empty court room by a glass screen, an AFP correspondent said.
The bespectacled 56-year-old looked bemused as the sentence was handed down in Hebrew.
His lawyer approached the screen to inform Mansouri of the sentence in English.
“Seven years… okay?” Feldman said.
“I want to see you,” Mansouri responded.
The Shin Bet claimed that Mansouri, who acquired Belgian nationality through marriage, had enrolled in a special operations unit of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards after being recruited in 2012.
According to the indictment, he was given “an espionage mission aimed at harming Israel’s security,” and visited the country three times.
He was to pretend to be “an innocent businessman and establish a company in Israel” that would serve as infrastructure for espionage by another Iranian man who would arrive later.
The prosecution said Mansouri confessed his ties to Iranian intelligence.
During questioning he said he had been promised $1 million (930,000 euros) as a reward to use his position to set up companies in Israel on behalf of Iranian intelligence to “harm Israeli and Western interests.”
Using the alias Alex Mans, Mansouri is accused of entering Israel using his Belgian passport in July 2012, before later briefing his handlers in Iran on his progress and security at Ben Gurion airport.
In January 2013 Mansouri again entered Israel, and took photographs of the US embassy in Tel Aviv and an unnamed security installation before another debriefing in Iran.
Mansouri arrived again on September 6 for meetings to open a factory and, according to the indictment, “serve Iranian intelligence in the future.”
He was arrested at the airport on September 11, 2013, as he sought to leave Israel.