Member of anti-Zionist Haredi sect accused of spying for Iran

Jerusalem suspect, who belongs to Neturei Karta, reportedly confesses that he offered his services to Tehran, said he’d also ‘murder a Zionist’

Haviv Rettig Gur is The Times of Israel's senior analyst.

The accused spy being brought into court in Jerusalem Thursday. (photo credit: Flash90)
The accused spy being brought into court in Jerusalem Thursday. (photo credit: Flash90)

A gag order was lifted Thursday on an espionage indictment filed against a 46-year-old Jerusalem resident accused of offering to serve as a spy for the Iranian regime.

The suspect, who has not yet been named by authorities, is being held on charges of espionage and abetting an enemy in a time of war.

The suspect reportedly belongs to the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta Haredi sect, which holds a theological view that sees the founding of the State of Israel as a violation of God’s plan for history.

According to the indictment, the suspect reportedly flew to Berlin in January 2011 in order to meet with Iranian officials at the country’s embassy in the city. He attempted to enter the embassy on January 17, but found it to be closed. Returning the following day, he was shepherded into an inner room at the embassy and there met with three unidentified men.

One of the men introduced himself as Haji Baba, according to the indictment, which is partly based on the suspect’s testimony.

The suspect told the Iranian officials that he denies the existence of the State of Israel and offered to spy for Iran. He also explained to the officials that he was not interested in asylum, and was “willing to murder a Zionist.”

The Iranian officials gave the suspect a note with an email address where they said he would find a message. They also asked the suspect to maintain telephone contact with them.

Three days after the meeting, the suspect returned to Israel and began to check the email account repeatedly, and even attempted to contact “Haji Baba” by phone.

He was arrested in mid-July, but a gag order was placed on the case.

Yair Nehorai, the suspect’s attorney, said his client did not harm national security.

“It’s important to remember that no harm was caused to the state or any other party. The [indictment] refers to events that took place over two years ago. We will study the evidence and deal with these serious accusations,” Nehorai said.

The state prosecution has said the suspect confessed to the crimes cited in the indictment.

In 2006, members of the fringe Neturei Karta sect visited Iran to take part in a conference hosted by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad which sought to “re-examine the Holocaust.”

The group was widely condemned for the visit, which was designed to lend a sheen of respectability to Holocaust denial efforts by the Iranian regime.

“Frankly, even among the Hasidic world, by and large Neturei Karta are regarded as freaks,” London Rabbi Jeremy Rosen told the BBC at the time.

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