'Alleged Haredi, Natorei Karta spy for Iran felt like Prisoner X'

Lawyer of man says client only confessed to Shin Bet due to illegal prevention from access to legal representative.

Natorei Karta (photo credit: MAHMOUD KHEIR/REUTERS)
Natorei Karta
A lawyer for the anti-Zionist Natorei Karta man accused of spying for Iran told the Jerusalem District Court on Monday that his client only confessed to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) regarding the allegations against him because officers illegally prevented him access to his lawyer, making him feel like “Prisoner X.”
His lawyer, Yair Nehorai, made the claims along with several other defenses at a hearing in which the court ordered the haredi man, whose identity is still under a gag order, to remain in police custody at least until Wednesday pending a decision on the state’s motion to keep him in police custody until the end of the trial.
While defendants whose identity are under a gag order often come to court covering their faces with their shirt, the man’s entire head was obscured by a large white covering such that it almost appeared to be cut-off, giving him an even more surreal image than what has already developed by the sensational allegations brought against him.
Nehorai’s main claim was that when the Shin Bet had arrested the man on July 17, officials interrogated him improperly and kept him from speaking to a lawyer despite his request to speak to one.
Further, Nehorai said the Shin Bet questioned him for so long and with improper conditions like constant and penetrating light exposure that when he confessed, the man felt isolated to the point of thinking he was like a “Prisoner X,” with no rights.
He said that this tainted the Shin Bet-obtained confession and it should be disqualified.
Next, he argued that his client should be evaluated by a psychiatrist as he may be mentally incompetent to stand trial.
The state responded that while the Shin Bet had questioned him without a lawyer for two days, until July 19, such a delay was legal when dealing with a security prisoner, a category into which the man fit as an alleged spy.
In any case, the state said it also had evidence confirming the confession, such as a picture on the man’s cell phone of the piece of paper allegedly given to him by Iranian officials at Iran’s Embassy in Berlin with telephone and email information for keeping in touch.
They also found information in his possession regarding the Iranian Embassy.
The state disputed any allegation that the man was in need of psychiatric help or was unfit for trial, stating that it had found that the man was fully competent and mentally in control of himself.
The man was indicted last week on charges of intent to commit treason and contacting a foreign agent.
At an unknown date, the man, 47, decided to make contact with the Iranian government to collect intelligence on Israel and send it to officials, Thursday’s indictment alleged.
The indictment said that on January 16, 2011, he flew to Berlin and two days after arriving, approached the embassy to tell the Iranians that he was an Israeli and wanted to speak to them. At the time, he was clothed in his regular haredi dress, including black and white clothes, and tzizit (ritual undergarments).
Next, he was brought to Iranian representatives, including a man who introduced himself as Hagi Baba and two others, said the indictment.
According to the indictment, he told Baba that he was against the Jewish state, wanted the state to be taken over by non-Jews, was ready to provide them intelligence and was even ready to “kill a Zionist,” if necessary.
The indictment also said that he baited the Iranians, asking them why they continued to fail to stop sabotage and attacks by Israel within Iran, the indictment continued.
The Iranians responded with annoyance, noted the indictment, that he should be embarrassed to insult them when he was coming to the Iranians seeking asylum.
The man retorted that he was not seeking asylum, but was seeking to assist with spying, the indictment said.
He returned to Israel on January 20, 2011.
After returning to Israel he kept up his connection with the Iranian officials using the email account [email protected] with the password merill2011.
One place where he checked the email account for messages from the Iranians was the Vital Hotel at 141 Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, said the indictment.
Two spots where he used public telephone calls to contact the Iranians were on Straus Street and Kanfei Nesharim Street in the capital, according to the indictment.
A fringe ultra-Orthodox sect established in Jerusalem in 1938, Netorei Karta (Aramaic for “Guardians of the City”) believes Israel can be reestablished only after the coming of the Messiah.
The group therefore rejects Zionism and opposes the existence of the state.
Members of the sect in Israel and the US are known to burn the Israeli flag and have sent representatives to attend conferences in Iran in the past.
Last year, Arabic media reported that members of the sect met with Hezbollah officials in Beirut.