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2 women accused of spying for Iran released to house arrest

The suspects, who are among 5 Israelis accused of assisting an Iranian operative, to be monitored and barred from using internet

A woman accused of making contact with a foreign agent from Iran arrives for a hearing at the Jerusalem District Court, January 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A woman accused of making contact with a foreign agent from Iran arrives for a hearing at the Jerusalem District Court, January 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Two Israeli women accused of assisting an Iranian espionage operation have been released to house arrest, Hebrew media reported Friday.

The women were among five suspects arrested for allegedly helping an Iranian operative gather intelligence and make connections in Israel. The five suspects — four women and one man — are all Jewish immigrants from Iran or the descendants of Iranian immigrants.

The Jerusalem District Court, where the five have been indicted, ordered the women’s release from custody earlier this week. The Shin Bet security service did not appeal the decision, according to the Ynet news site.

Under the conditions of their release, the women will be put under monitoring and barred from using the internet, which the judge said would reduce the risk they posed, Army Radio reported.

“Before committing the acts they were normal family women. Both of them confessed to their actions, and one of them understands the gravity of her deeds,” the judge was quoted as saying.

The two women have not been named, as the publication of the suspects’ identities is barred under a court-issued gag order requested by their attorneys.

According to the Shin Bet, the suspects took photographs of strategically significant sites in Israel, including the United States Consulate in Tel Aviv; attempted to form relationships with politicians; provided information about security arrangements at different sites; and committed other offenses — all at the direction of the Iranian operative, who went by the name Rambod Namdar, in exchange for thousands of dollars.

An undated Facebook profile picture that was used by an alleged Iranian intelligence operative, known as Rambod Namdar, to make contact with Israeli citizens, several of whom were indicted on January 12, 2022. (Shin Bet)

Two of the suspects also attempted to convince their sons to join an IDF Military Intelligence unit, the Shin Bet said.

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

In some cases, the suspects acknowledged that they were aware that Namdar may have been an Iranian intelligence operative, but continued their communications with him anyway, according to the security service.

However, as none of the suspects allegedly involved in the case had access to significant classified material and there was no indication that this spy ring seriously compromised national security, it did reveal a potential weak point that could be used by Iran in the future.

Lawyers for the five suspects in the case have said that they intended no harm. One of their sons was quoted by Channel 12 saying that his mother is an elderly woman who would never do anything to harm Israel, and worked to encourage the immigration of Jews from Iran.

Babek Yitzhaki, an Iranian-born journalist, has said the affair is an “earthquake” within the community of Israelis born in Iran.

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