TEL AVIV, ISRAEL — According to Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, Israel has indicted Gonen Segev, former energy minister, on suspicion of spying for Iran and assisting in its alleged activity against Israel.
Segev reportedly sent information to his contacts in Iran regarding “Israel’s energy sector, security sites in Israel, structures, and the identity of officials in the security and political establishments in Israel, among other things.”
According to Israeli police, Segev’s relationship with Iran, which began in 2012 between the former minister and two Iranian intelligence agents in Nigeria, is one of the “most severe security breaches” Israel has ever suffered.
Segev “was recruited by Iranian intelligence and served as an agent,” Shin Bet said Monday. He was officially accused of espionage, aiding an enemy in wartime, and providing information to the enemy, when the Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s Office submitted charges against him on Friday.
Shin Bet’s investigation found that Segev was recruited by Iran to become an agent for the country’s intelligence service. He allegedly met with his handlers twice in Iran.
Segev, a physician by trade, was jailed in 2005 for attempting to smuggle more than 30,000 ecstasy tablets into Israel from the Netherlands. He also forged a diplomatic passport. He was released two years later.
The former Israeli cabinet minister had been living in Nigeria where he ran clinic serving ambassadors, embassy workers and diplomats. He was extradited to Israel after being arrested while attempting to visit Equatorial Guinea in May. Segev was not allowed to enter the country thanks to his criminal record. Local police handed him over to Israel and he was indicted on Friday.
Segev is reportedly cooperating fully with the investigation since his arrival in Israel and has provided details of his relationship with Iran, claiming he had no intention to harm Israel. He was, however, provided with evidence that he did in fact harm Israel and its security, after being held in solitary confinement for nine days. Segev’s own version of events contradicts that evidence. During the investigation, he was quoted as saying: “I wanted to fool the Iranians and come back to Israel a hero.”
The fog of espionage
The Times of Israel recently published an article showcasing numerous social-media posts in support of Segev, with some tweets directly referring to Segev as Iran’s spy. Some of the tweets with little interaction (i.e., likes and retweets) come from Iranians with recently created accounts, low follower counts and, at times, inaccurate information.
In an age where it is commonplace and acceptable for nations, including Israel, to utilize sock puppets online, the content and source of the tweets included in The Times of Israel article should be scrutinized. The above image, for example, is actually from a 2011 mass protest in Israel.
Though Israeli media, Western corporate media, and social media alike are abuzz with the accusations launched against Segev, Iran hasn’t had much to contribute. While Iran has said little officially about the case, a senior political aide to Iran’s president said that the accusations that Segev was spying for Tehran should be ignored.
In the first official Iranian reaction to the arrest, government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht told reporters: “[The] Zionist regime uses every tool to blame the Islamic Republic of Iran. It’s not clear what this is, but we must ignore it.”
According to The Times of Israel, Iranian news site ISNA dismissed the case as fraud:
The Zionist regime is famous for faking files against Iran, and, after the violation of the [Iran nuclear deal] by the U.S. government, has recently launched a new round of Iranophobia. The experts have assessed this accusation [against Segev] as part of Netanyahu’s effort to create fake files against Iran.”
Top Photo | Gonen Segev, pictured left. at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on August 18, 2006. Photo | Flash90