Former Israeli government minister charged with spying for Iran

Our Foreign Staff
In this file photo taken on April 22, 2004, former Israeli energy minister Gonen Segev appears at the Tel Aviv district tribunal - AFP

A former Israeli government minister, once imprisoned for trying to smuggle drugs, is back behind bars after being charged with spying for archenemy Iran, the country's internal security agency said Monday.

The Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency, said Gonen Segev was extradited from Guinea and arrested upon arrival in Israel last month on suspicion of "committing offenses of assisting the enemy in war and spying against the state of Israel."

It said Mr Segev, a former energy minister, acted as an agent for Iranian intelligence and relayed information "connected to the energy market and security sites in Israel including buildings and officials in political and security organizations."

Lawyers representing Mr Segev issued a statement that did not reject or accept the accusations, only saying that the indictment "portrays a different picture" than what the Shin Bet says.

Mr Segev, who served in the Cabinet under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the mid-1990s, was arrested in 2004 for attempting to smuggle 32,000 Ecstasy tablets from the Netherlands to Israel using an expired diplomatic passport. 

Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin speaks with former energy minister Gonen Segev Credit: REUTERS/GPO

A former doctor whose medical license was revoked, Mr Segev was released from prison in 2007 and had been living in Africa in recent years.

The Shin Bet said Mr Segev met with his operators twice in Iran, and also met with Iranian agents in hotels and apartments around the world.

Mr Segev was given a "secret communications system to encrypt messages" with his operators.

The statement said that Mr Segev maintained connections with Israeli civilians who had ties to the country's security and foreign relations.

It said he acted to connect them with Iranian agents who posed as businessmen. Israel and Iran are bitter enemies, and the allegations against Mr Segev are extremely grave.

Israel considers Iran to be its biggest threat, citing Iranian calls for Israel's destruction, Iran's support for hostile militant groups like Hezbollah and its development of long-range missiles.