Segev charged with spying for Iran

Gonen Segev in court in 2004. Photo: Yariv Katz/AFP/Getty Images

ISRAEL has charged a former government minister with spying for Iran, claiming that he met his Iranian handlers in a series of secret meetings in hotels around the world.

Gonen Segev even visited Iran twice and met his handlers “in full knowledge that they were Iranian intelligence operatives”, the Shin Bet claimed this week.

The revelations come as Israel pushes the world to crack down on Iran, emboldened by America’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, and increases its own rhetoric against the Islamic Republic.

Israel will strike Iranian targets wherever they are in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

“Iran needs to withdraw from all of Syria,” he told ministers, adding that Israel will continue to take action “against efforts to establish a militarily presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria both close to the border and deep inside Syria”.¬†Netanyahu promised, “We will act against these efforts anywhere in Syria.”

With Iran at the centre of the Israeli news agenda, revelations about Segev being arrested and charged have sent shockwaves through the political and security establishment.

“He is a former minister of Israel which is something that is unprecedented as far as I can recall,” Eli¬†Bahar, former legal adviser to the Shin Bet, told The AJN.

“I don’t remember someone holding this kind of position being recruited by a hostile country for espionage.”

Bahar added that while Segev, who represented a now-defunct right-wing party in Knesset, was minister of energy and ­infrastructure in the 1990s, some of what he knows from that time could still be relevant.

The Shin Bet claimed that Segev, who lives in Nigeria, came into contact with people from the Iranian embassy there in 2012, and that his visits to Iran and meetings with handlers in hotels followed.

“Segev even received secret communications equipment for encoding messages between him and his handlers,” the Shin Bet alleges.

He gave his handlers information on Israel’s economy, security sites, and diplomatic and security personnel and buildings.

To do this he was in contact with Israeli citizens in the foreign affairs and security fields, and got some of his contacts talking to Iranian intelligence agents by telling them that they were innocent Iranian businessmen.

Segev was already tainted by scandal before the latest allegations.

The former doctor has served prison time for trying to smuggle 32,000 ecstasy tablets into Israel.

He tried last month to visit Equatorial Guinea, where authorities refused him entry due to his criminal record and extradited him to Israel.

NATHAN JEFFAY