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Shin Bet questions Technion PhD student over alleged contact with foreign agent

40-year-old woman released to house arrest at mother’s home, can still travel to university; police claim to have new ‘very huge’ evidence

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

View the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa, February 19, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
View the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa, February 19, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Shin Bet has interrogated a 40-year-old Haifa woman for suspected contact with a foreign agent, the security agency confirmed Saturday.

The woman — a Ph.D. candidate at the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology — was summoned for questioning last week. She was later released to house arrest at her mother’s home in northern Israel.

On Thursday, her remand was extended by another five days.

Under the terms of her remand, she is prohibited from traveling to Haifa apart from visits to the university that must be coordinated with police.

According to Hebrew-language media reports over the weekend, the woman’s alleged actions were less severe than initially believed. The Shin Bet does not believe she will attempt to flee.

However, during a court hearing on extending her house arrest, a police representative said the alleged offenses were “very serious” and requested stricter detention conditions.

The police representative also claimed there was new “very huge” evidence against her. She has yet to be summoned again for questioning.

Her lawyer, Khaled Mahajna, was quoted by the Haaretz daily as saying she was “detained only for one day over these suspicions and released afterward. Since [the arrest] no violations have been recorded. She appeared for the hearing, for questioning, she did not commit any offense or anything related to this case.”

The woman was not previously known to law enforcement authorities.

The suspect previously worked as an environmental consultant at Bazan Group’s oil refineries, and also for the Environmental Protection Ministry as an enforcer of emission permits at factories in the Haifa bay area.

View of Haifa’s oil refineries and other industrial areas, on May 5, 2017. (Yaniv Nadav/Flash90/File)

Bazan in a statement said she worked for the company from August 2019 to June 2020 and was given a security clearance following necessary approvals from relevant state bodies.

The ministry told Haaretz she had not worked for it in years, declining to comment further.

The Technion said it was unaware of the case.

The incident follows the arrest of five Jewish Israeli suspects, who were accused of assisting an Iranian operative in gathering intelligence and making connections in Israel.

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.

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