Shin Bet arrests 5 Jewish Israelis suspected of spying for Iran

The Shin Bet security service has arrested five Jewish Israelis on charges of helping an Iranian agent gather intelligence and establish links in Israel, though some suspect he was working for Iran, said the Shin Bet declared on Wednesday.

The five suspects – four women and a man – are all Jewish immigrants from Iran or descendants of Iranian immigrants. Their names were banned from publication under a gag order issued by the court at the request of their lawyers.

According to the Shin Bet, the suspects took photographs of strategically important sites in Israel, including the US consulate in Tel Aviv; tried to build relationships with politicians; provided information on security arrangements at various sites; and committed other offenses – all under the direction of the Iranian agent, who was called Rambod Namdar, in exchange for thousands of dollars.

Two of the suspects also tried to convince their sons to join an IDF military intelligence unit, the Shin Bet said.

“I call on the citizens of Israel to be vigilant in the face of these attempts. It is possible that the people behind the information you consume or share on the networks are Iranians, ”Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Wednesday in response to the news of the affair. “There is no doubt that the long arm of the defense establishment will reach anyone who attempts to undermine Israel’s security. ”

The investigation and the resulting indictments shed light on the rare and little-discussed phenomenon of Jews from Iran traveling to Israel to visit their families. In one case, such a trip – by one of the suspects’ nieces – was used to transport funds from Iran to Israel in order to pay Israelis working for Namdar, according to the indictment.

Illustration: The embassy of the United States of America at the time in Tel Aviv, Israel, on June 14, 2016 (Flash90)

Namdar, who maintained profiles on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, claimed to be Jewish in conversations with some of the suspects.

In some cases, the suspects admitted that they knew Namdar may have been an Iranian intelligence agent, but continued to communicate with him, according to the security services.

“With their grave actions, those involved put themselves, their families and innocent Israeli citizens at risk, as their information was transferred to Iranian intelligence services, in addition to information that was transmitted on Israeli websites and websites. Americans in Israel, which would be used for terrorist purposes, ”a senior Shin Bet official said in a statement on Wednesday.

The five suspects were indicted last month by the Jerusalem District Court.

Two of the suspects were a husband and wife, in their 40s, who lived in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon. According to the Shin Bet, the woman had been in contact with Namdar for several years.

Under Namdar’s direction, the wife is said to have taken photographs of the US Consulate in Tel Aviv and the Home Office offices in Holon and those of the National Insurance Institute. She is also accused of sending Namdar details about security arrangements at a shopping mall in Holon.

Her husband is accused of being aware of her connections to Namdar and of speaking with the Iranian agent himself, as well as transporting her to the United States consulate to take photographs of her, although he “suspects it was an Iranian intelligence figure,” the Shin Bet says.

The woman also tried to convince their son to enlist in military intelligence.

Illustration: A Jewish Iranian woman votes at a polling station in the capital Tehran on February 21, 2020 (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Another suspect, a 57-year-old woman from Beit Shemesh, is accused of performing a number of tasks for Namdar in exchange for $ 5,000. According to the Shin Bet, she attempted to befriend a female Knesset member on his instructions and sent him information about their relationship, including tapes of their communications. The parliamentarian’s name was banned from publication.

She also tried to convince her son to join military intelligence and sent photos and videos of his enlistment and military documentation to Namdar, according to the Shin Bet.

The security service said she also formed a club for Iranian emigrants in Beit Shemesh, took photos of her polling station in the March 2020 elections and attempted to photograph the United States embassy in Jerusalem, but had been stopped by security guards before she could.

According to the indictment, Namdar also asked her to install a hidden camera in a massage parlor at her home, apparently to collect potentially embarrassing footage that could act as leverage on her clients.

She also bought electronic devices and opened a business at Namdar’s request.

According to the Shin Bet, the $ 5,000 she received was paid to her by a fourth suspect, from the central town of Kfar Saba, who received the money twice, once by a relative who visited Israel from Iran and the second time to Turkey by a messenger sent by Namdar.

The fifth suspect, a 50-year-old woman from Jerusalem who left Iran for Israel in 2001, gave Namdar “different information”, the Shin Bet said without giving further details. In the indictment, prosecutors said the woman gave Namdar information about Iranian emigrants living in Israel and that the two discussed the fighting in Gaza in May.

In exchange for the information she gave him, the suspect was reportedly given $ 900. For much of their relationship, the woman suspected Namdar, who claimed to be a Jewish entrepreneur living in Tehran, of being an Iranian intelligence official – having asked his Jewish friends still living in the Iranian capital if they knew anyone. one with his name and they were told no – but continued talking to him anyway, according to the indictment.

According to the indictment, he also ordered her to set up a number of businesses, which she refuses to do, and attempted to get her to meet him in Turkey, Dubai or Iran, in passing through Armenia. “The accused told a friend in Iran about it, but he warned her against such a trip,” according to the indictment.

She was accused of having contacted a foreign agent.

In its statement, the Shin Bet warned that Iranian intelligence services are constantly seeking to recruit Israelis via the Internet in order to collect information about the country and “lure Israelis abroad in order to harm them.”

“We call on Israeli citizens to be aware of any attempted contact or irregular request made virtually, especially with prominent figures identifying themselves as Iranian,” the agency said.

Last year, an Israeli nearly traveled to the UAE by an Iranian agent, but canceled his trip after hearing about Iranian efforts to kidnap or injure Israeli citizens.

In 2020, the Shin Bet arrested another Israeli citizen on suspicion of spying for Iran.

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