Former Israeli Minister Gonen Segev in court .
(photo credit: AMIT SHABAY/POOL)
The trial of disgraced former minister Gonen Segev, who was arrested for spying for Iran, opened on Thursday, though behind closeddoors due to a gag order still on much of the details.
Segev, who appeared in the Jerusalem District Court, is expected to plead not guilty initially, though the prosecution believes that there may eventually be a plea deal.
Channel 10 previously reported that Segev admitted to the spying charges, but explained he was trying to help Israel and return as a “hero” under the guise of spying for Iran.
The former energy and infrastructure minister – who also spent time in jail for drug smuggling, forgery and fraud between 2005 and 2007 – was extradited from Equatorial Guinea and arrested in May on suspicion of assisting the enemy in a time of war, spying against the State of Israel and providing intelligence to the enemy.
According to Channel 10, Segev was held in solitary confinement for nine days in a Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) facility in the center of the country and was not allowed to contact his attorneys during that time.
The report added that Segev told interrogators from the Shin Bet that he did not hand over any classified information to his Iranian handlers and that he had no ideological or financial motive to help an enemy state.
“I wanted to fool the Iranians and come back to Israel a hero,” he was quoted as saying during his interrogation.
Segev is suspected of providing his Iranian handlers with intelligence related to, among other things, Israel’s energy industry, security sites, buildings and officials in Israeli political and security bodies.
On Thursday, Walla! lost most of its motion to lift a gag order on new details in the case, but at least was given a heavily-censored copy of the formal indictment.
The former minister lived in Nigeria for close to 10 years where he practiced medicine after his license was revoked in Israel. He was arrested and convicted for drug smuggling and credit card fraud in 2005 after attempting to smuggle 32,000 ecstasy tablets from the Netherlands into Israel.
While in Nigeria, Segev served as doctor to members of the Jewish community as well as diplomats, even receiving an official letter of appreciation from the head of security at the Foreign Ministry for saving the life of an Israeli diplomat.
According to Channel 10, Segev was lured to the Iranian Embassy in Abuja under the guise of treating the children of the Iranian staff.
A statement released by the Shin Bet in June, said that the investigation by the agency and Israel police found that Segev, who first met with elements of the Iranian embassy in Nigeria in 2012, knew that they were from Iranian intelligence. The Shin Bet stated that Segev was recruited and acted as an agent on behalf of Iranian intelligence and later traveled twice to Iran to meet with his handlers.
While Israeli security officials do not think Segev gave any sensitive or classified intelligence to Tehran, Lebanon’s Al Akhbar
reported that he provided Iran with “a variety of information that will serve it in the struggle against the Zionist entity.”