Gonen Segev, ex-minister, gets 11 years in jail for spying for Iran

The former minister lived in Nigeria for close to 10 years where he practiced medicine after his license was revoked in Israel.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.

Former minister Gonen Segev sentenced to 11 years in prison for spying for Iran, February 26, 2019 (Reuters)

Disgraced former minister Gonen Segev was sentenced by the Jerusalem District Court to 11 years in prison on Tuesday in a plea deal for spying for Iran.

The sentence follows a conviction on January 9, but much of the case’s details remain under gag order.

Channel 10 previously reported that Segev had 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 in the past for drug smuggling, forgery and fraud – 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 provid-ing intelligence to the enemy.

Prosecutors Geula Cohen and Rachel Aharoni Zeevi said, “The indictment which Segev con-fessed to as part of the plea bargain included grave crimes of spying and providing information to an enemy with the intent of harming national security.”

“Segev confessed that he acted on behalf of the Iranian intelligence forces for five years, maintained regular communications with his handlers using a clandestine channel, and that he provided them [with] a diverse range of information – including top secret information,” the prosecutors said.

They said Segev had met with his handlers in Iran itself as well as in other countries at secret locations.

Furthermore, they said that Segev had tried to promote contacts between Iran and Israelis he knew in the defense establishment. They added that the 11-year jail sentence struck a balance between the severity of his crimes and avoiding an extended trial, which could reveal intelli-gence sources, methods and secrets.

The prosecutors said that the conviction and jail sentence represented a significant victory for the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), the police and the prosecution when an Israeli citizen who was living in Africa was spying for Iran, but still brought to justice in Israel.

According to a Channel 10 report at the time that the Segev scandal broke, the former minister was held in solitary confinement for nine days in a Shin Bet facility in the center of the country and was not allowed to contact his attorneys during that time.

The report had added that Segev told interrogators 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 secu-rity bodies.

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 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 a prior Channel 10 report, 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 Is-rael Police found that Segev, who first met with elements of the Iranian embassy in Nigeria in 2012, knew that they were from Iranian intelligence.

Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.