Iranian Spy Suspect Remanded for 8 Days

Israeli media: arrest made public to assist prime minister's trip to the US and his speech at the UN.

Gil Ronen,

Suspected spy
Suspected spy
Flash 90

An Israeli court on Monday remanded in custody for eight days an alleged Iranian spy, arrested on September 11 carrying photographs of the US embassy in Tel Aviv.

An AFP cameraman at the court said that in his first public appearance Ali Mansouri, 58, was silent and motionless as he sat in handcuffs, wearing a brown prison uniform.

He not yet been charged.

News of his arrest was made public on Sunday, just hours after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu left for Washington and New York, determined to expose what he described as "sweet talk" by Israel's arch-foe Iran.

Israeli media quoted a police representative as telling the magistrates' court in Petah Tikvah, near Tel Aviv, that the decision to ask for the lifting of a gag order on the arrest was made at "a high level." 

A transcript of the hearing showed defense lawyer Michal Okabi remarking that usual practice was to lift reporting restrictions only after charges against a suspect had been filed.

Daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot was suspicious of the timing.

“Security services do not hurry to reveal, of their own volition, recent espionage affairs," its defense commentator Alex Fishman wrote.

"An espionage network is too important an operational card to trade with publicly, unless there is a particularly important operational or diplomatic interest that requires such disclosure," he added.

“In the case of the Iranian spy Ali Mansouri, the diplomatic interest behind the affair is completely transparent: Israel is trying to embarrass the Iranians in response to the successful public relations campaign that Iranian President (Hasan) Rouhani conducted in the US in the past week."

Public radio's veteran defense correspondent Carmella Menashe echoed those suspicions.

"Security sources tell us that details of the investigation would have emerged anyway in the coming days," she said. "They confirm that there were additional considerations of national interest.

"The national interest considerations were the prime minister's trip to the US and his speech at the UN."

Meanwhile, the Iranian daily, Tehran Times, claimed Monday morning that the detention of Ali Mansour was "pure propaganda" timed to torpedo the "rapprochement Iran is seeking with the US and Western countries."