Iranian-born Israeli charged with spying for Iran

An Iranian-born Israeli was charged Sunday with passing defense information to Tehran, police said.

The man, who lives abroad, was arrested by police and agents of the Shin Bet security agency on May 8 after arriving in Israel for a visit, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

The man told interrogators he repeatedly visited the Iranian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and gave the Iranians names of acquaintances he said served in the Israeli security forces, Rosenfeld said.

A court banned publication of the suspect’s name or further details of the case.

In April 2007, Israeli security officials said they had broken up an Iranian plot to recruit Israelis as spies, centered largely on the Istanbul consulate. Documents released at the time by the Shin Bet said at least two people there were Iranian intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover.

Israel considers Tehran a strategic threat, saying it seeks to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction.

There have been several recent cases of Israelis convicted of spying for Iran or its allies.

In January, David Shamir, a major in Israel’s army reserves, was sentenced to five years in prison for offering secret information to Iran and the militant Palestinian Hamas movement.

Last year a court convicted Israeli army Col. Omar el-Heib of spying for the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah militia. El-Heib, an Israeli Arab, was jailed for 15 years for providing the group with information on Israeli troop movements in return for money and drugs.

In 1998, businessman Nahum Manbar was sentenced to 16 years in prison for supplying Iran with materials that could be used to manufacture chemical weapons.