Middle East

Ultra-Orthodox Israeli jailed for attempted Iran spying

A man belonging to the fringe ultra-Orthodox Jewish group Neturei Karta covers his face as he is escorted by Israeli prison guards in the Jerusalem District Court August 5, 2013. The man, an Israeli citizen, was charged last week with trying to spy for Iran. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: A Jerusalem court sentenced an ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist Israeli Jew to four-and-a-half years prison Tuesday for attempting to spy for arch-foe Iran, a court document read.

Yitzhak Bergel, a member of the radical Neturei Karta group that opposes the existence of the state of Israel, admitted as part of a plea bargain to having contacted the Iranian embassy in Berlin in 2011 to offer intelligence, and staying in contact with Iranian diplomats after returning to Israel.

Bergel was found guilty of "contact with a foreign agent" and "displaying intent of treason," the decision read, noting that "at the end of the day, no damage had been done to the state."

No details were given on what specifically he had offered to do.

According to Shin Bet, Israel's domestic security agency, Bergel had said in interrogation his deeds were "out of spite for Israel and for financial gain."

Neturei Karta is a very small splinter group from within ultra-Orthodox Jewry with members in Israel and abroad. They are unified by their opposition to the existence of a physical, man-made Jewish state before the coming of the Messiah.

Israel, the region's sole if undeclared nuclear power, accuses Iran of being bent on its destruction, and fears the Islamic republic intends to develop nuclear arms to promote that end, a claim Tehran rejects.





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