Israeli court indicts Iranian-Belgian man for espionage

Israeli court indicts Iranian-Belgian man for espionage

Ali Mansouri allegedly posed as businessman to photograph US Embassy, Ben Gurion Airport, security installation for Tehran

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Ali Mansouri on the Tel Aviv boardwalk near the US Embassy (photo credit: Courtesy Shin Bet)
Ali Mansouri on the Tel Aviv boardwalk near the US Embassy (photo credit: Courtesy Shin Bet)

Ali Mansouri, an Iranian national with Belgian citizenship accused of spying for Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards, was indicted in Lod District Court on Sunday. He was charged with espionage and aiding an enemy in wartime.

Mansouri, 55, was arrested at Ben Gurion International Airport on September 11 by Shin Bet security service agents while attempting to depart Israel for Belgium, the security agency said.

The indictment details how Mansouri entered Israel three times, posing as a Belgian businessman working to open a company in Israel.

“The purpose of the company to be established was to create a fictional business infrastructure for the activities of an Iranian intelligence agent,” the indictment charges, “who was slated to arrive in Israel and operate in place of the accused at a certain stage.”

A subsequent stage would have been to send terrorists to Israel to carry out attacks, the indictment said.

Mansouri met repeatedly with Iranian intelligence, according to the prosecutor. Intelligence agents allegedly met with him in his factory in Iran in February 2012, and asked him to perform a mission for them. He continued to meet with the agents regularly, and handed them photographs he had taken in Israel, the indictment said.

Mansouri’s brother, Mansour, had also worked for Iranian intelligence, the indictment stated, and was present at meetings between Ali Mansouri and senior Iranian intelligence officials.

Mansouri, who changed his name to Alex Mans while living in Belgium, had been observed photographing the US Embassy in Tel Aviv and recording activity there while staying at a hotel opposite the site, according to the Shin Bet. Officials believe he is an agent of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps whose main mission was to spy on American interests inside Israel.

According to the indictment, Mansouri took 16 photographs inside Ben Gurion Airport, including of security checkpoints and the flight gates. The same day, he traveled to “a location with a view of a classified security facility,” and took pictures there as well.

The indictment also details how he intended to maintain his façade. He was instructed to fly through European countries from Iran, never Turkey, in order to avoid arousing Israeli suspicion. Mansouri was allegedly to report back to his handler, Hajji Hamid, only through direct meetings, never by telephone.

Mansouri said during questioning after his arrest that he was promised $1 million in exchange for his activities inside Israel, and described how he was recruited by the special operations unit of the Revolutionary Guards.

He said he was deprived of sleep and bound to a chair during his Shin Bet investigation but that he wasn’t physically assaulted, Channel 2 News reported.

The suspect’s attorney was quoted by Channel 2 as saying that his client’s situation was more complex than reports indicated, but that “he has no agenda against Israel.”

Mansouri left Iran in 1980, lived in Turkey until 1997 and then moved on a business visa to Belgium, where in 2006 he obtained citizenship by marrying a Belgian citizen, the Shin Bet said. The two were later divorced.

In 2007, Mansouri returned to Iran and established an international business with interests in Iran, Belgium and Turkey.

One of the companies Mansouri established was called European Folded Glass System, Channel 2 reported. The company’s amateurish website, which states proudly that EFGS is “Big Company in Europe,” is rife with spelling and grammatical errors. Alex Mans is listed as the manager, and a Belgian address and phone number are given on the site.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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