Israel keeps Iran spy suspect in jail

Police: Senior government officials ordered announcement of the arrest of alleged Iranian spy.

September 30, 2013 13:39
4 minute read.
Suspected Iranian spy Ali Mansouri attends a remand hearing in a Petah Tikva court, Sept. 30, 2013.

Ali Mansouri court 370. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

The decision to go public with the investigation against alleged Iranian spy Ali Mansouri was made by highranking officials, a police officer said at a remand hearing in Petah Tikva on Monday.

Asked by Mansouri’s attorney why he requested the gag order be lifted on Sunday, the officer said he was told to make the request and that he assumes the decision was by the head of the international crimes department, the special investigations branch or “the higher-up levels.”

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Typically, with secret service Shin Bet investigations involving serious security crimes, a gag order is released only when the investigation has been completed, in order to coincide with the issuing of the indictment.

The police representative would not confirm whether or not there were other suspects in the case or people whom they suspect were recruited by the 55-year-old Mansouri. He said only that the state needs 10 more days to complete the investigation, while court-appointed attorney Michal Okaby proposed allowing another three or four days. In the end, the court extended the remand by eight days; it was the fourth time Mansouri’s remand had been extended since his arrest on September 11.

Mansouri was quiet and appeared calm during the hearing, leaning in to listen to an interpreter translate the hearing into French. He didn’t make any statements, but at one point, when an Israeli journalist waved and said “Shalom Ali” Mansouri responded “Shalom,” put his hands together as if in prayer and nodded.

Okaby asked the officer repeatedly why the case was reported so early on and why details of the investigation were provided to the press by security services before related evidence had been seen by Mansouri’s attorneys.

The officer said only that he was instructed to do so and that he doesn’t have statistics on the lifting of gag orders.

The officer refused to answer Okaby’s questions relating to whether or not there is evidence linking him to the charges, such as money transfers found in his email or bank account after, according to Okaby, he gave access to the account to his interrogators.

The officer did say that Mansouri submitted a DNA sample and confirmed that the keys to his apartment in Belgium had been confiscated upon his arrest on September 11.

It emerged that Mansouri refused to submit to a polygraph test but that he cooperated under questioning.

Okaby spent a significant amount of time questioning the officer about whether or not Mansouri was threatened that he would not be able to meet again with the Belgian consulate or his attorneys if he refused to cooperate with the investigation.

“The apocalyptic picture presented of my client by the Shin Bet as someone who came here in order to carry out terror attacks against Israel is very far from reality and is baseless.

Because it is still under investigation we are not able to comment on it, but what we can say is that the picture here is far more complicated,” Okaby said after the hearing.

She pointed out to the officer that the specific charge of “espionage” had been left off the remand-extension request, which the officer said he forgot to include, although other security charges were on the form.

The Shin Bet announced Sunday that Mansouri was arrested while trying to leave Israel on September 11, after he was sent to Israel to set up what they referred to as a base for Iranian intelligence and terrorism networks. Iran offered him $1 million in exchange for his activities, the secret service agency said.

According to the Shin Bet, Mansouri had been recruited by Iran’s Quds Force, the extraterritorial unit that runs special operations, terrorism and subversion operations for the Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The suspect was found with photographs of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion Airport, as well as one of himself on the Tel Aviv promenade, all of which were released to the press by the Shin Bet.

“During questioning, the suspect, Ali Mansouri, described entering Israel under a Belgian identity using the alias Alex Mans, as well as his recruitment and activation process by Iranian intelligence elements,” the Shin Bet stated.

The secret service agency said that Mansouri visited Israel three times, and tried to forge links with Tel Aviv business owners, adding that they suspect he was trying to build a business network as a front for the Iranian intelligence and terror network.

According to the Shin Bet, Mansouri was born in Iran in 1958, where he lived until 1980, after which he moved to Turkey. In 1987 he moved to Belgium and got married, later receiving citizenship and changing his name to Alex Mans.

The Shin Bet said that over the years, he continued to travel between Belgium, Turkey, and Iran, and drew the attention of Iranian intelligence recruiters, due to his international business background.

His specialty was selling windows and roofing solutions to stores and restaurants, and he tried signing supply contracts with potential customers in Tel Aviv. He presented himself as a Belgian businessman and would refer them to websites and Facebook accounts that documented his business activities.

An official traveling with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ahead of his meeting with President Barack Obama in the US said Sunday that the affair was further proof that Iran could not be trusted.

“While the Iranian president sweet-talks the West, the ayatollah’s Revolutionary Guards continue in their attempts to hurt Western interests in the Middle East, as is evidenced by the fact that the Iranian spy that was caught gathered intelligence on the US Embassy in Israel,” the official said.

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