A former Israeli government minister charged with spying for archenemy Iran will serve 11 years in prison as part of a plea bargain with authorities, Israel’s justice ministry said Wednesday.
The ministry said Former Minister of Energy & Infrastructure Gonen Segev agreed to the deal after confessing to severe espionage and passing information to an enemy. The plea bargain will be brought to a judge on February 11th and no further information was provided.
The announcement capped another stunning turn of events for Segev, who served as energy minister under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the mid-1990s and was later imprisoned for trying to smuggle drugs into the country.
Segev was extradited from Equatorial Guinea and arrested upon arrival in Israel last May on suspicion of acting as an agent for Iranian intelligence and relayed information about the “energy market and security sites in Israel.”
Israel’s Shin Bet security service initially said Segev met with his operators twice in Iran, and also met with Iranian agents in hotels and apartments around the world. A gag order was placed on most of the details.
The allegations were particularly grave since Israel and Iran are bitter enemies. Israel considers Iran to be its biggest threat, citing Iranian calls for Israel’s destruction, Iran’s support for hostile terror groups like Hezbollah and its development of long-range missiles. Israel has been an outspoken critic of the international nuclear deal with Iran and welcomed the U.S. decision to withdraw from the deal. More recently, Israeli forces have carried out a number of airstrikes on Iranian forces in neighboring Syria.
In August, Iran’s intelligence minister boasted on state television about his country’s successful recruitment of a former Cabinet-level official from a “hostile” country, though he did not mention Israel or Segev by name.
Segev’s lawyers, Eli Zohar and Moshe Mazor, said they were still prohibited from discussing the full details of the case but that the plea bargain removed the initial charge of treason and brought the affair back to its proper proportions.
“Indeed, Mr. Segev did have contact with the Iranians but his motive was not to ‘aid an enemy during war,’” they said in a statement Wednesday.
Segev, who served in the Cabinet under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the mid-1990s for the now-defunct right-wing Tzomet party headed by the later Raful Eitan, was arrested in 2004 for attempting to smuggle 32,000 Ecstasy tablets from the Netherlands to Israel using an expired diplomatic passport. Segev, a former doctor whose medical license was revoked, was released from prison in 2007. He was living in Nigeria in recent years, working as a doctor.
The defense team explained that the reason the state agreed to the plea bargain agreement is that while his client did maintain contact with the Iranians, he did not assist them and therefore, the state was willing to drop the treason charge.
According to state officials, he was recruited by Iranian embassy officials in Nigeria in 2012, and since then, he made two trips to Iran for meetings with his handlers, whom he was aware were agents of Iranian intelligence. He had other meetings with his handlers in hotels around the world as well as receiving an encrypted communications system to conceal his communications with his handlers.
By agreeing to sign the plea bargain, the prosecution agreed to drop the charge of assisting an enemy nation.
(AP / YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)