An Iranian-born Belgian national was sentenced to seven years at Central District Court in Lod on Tuesday after being convicted of charges that he spied for Iran.
In September of 2013, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) apprehended Ali Mansouri at Ben-Gurion International Airport carrying photographs of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv and other sites.
The Shin Bet alleged that Mansouri was apart of a special operations unit within Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, sent to Israel to locate potential terror targets for the Islamic Republic.
According to the Shin Bet, Mansouri was promised $1 million to use his position as a businessman to establish companies for Iranian intelligence services in Israel in order to “harm Israeli and Western interests.”
Mansouri’s defense attorney Avigdor Feldman said that no appeal was expected from his client.
“The court heard our arguments that the security of Israel was not compromised,” Feldman told AFP.
“It was the Iranian secret services who put pressure on him and his family and we feel that this verdict was rather fair and reasonable in view of the circumstances.”
According to the Shin Bet, Iran recruited Mansouri, 55, a dual Iranian-Belgian citizen, over the course of 2012 to carry out terrorist operations in Israel.
He acquired Belgian citizenship by marriage to a Belgian in 2005; the next year, he divorced her and changed his name to cover up his Muslim identity.
According to an indictment released before his trial, Mansouri had several meetings with Iran’s Quds Force, the extraterritorial unit responsible for special operations, terrorism and subversion run by the Revolutionary Guards Corps.
His initial meeting was with Iranian intelligence agents Haji Hamid and Haji Moustafa at his office in Karaj, 20 km. west of Tehran, in February 2012, the indictment said.
In April 2012, Mansouri’s brother, whom he knew had past involvement with Iranian intelligence, invited him to meet with Mahdi Hambabi, who introduced himself as the supervisor of the agents Mansouri had met with earlier and as a senior Iranian intelligence official.
Mansouri carefully covered his tracks to try to hide his espionage activities from the Israeli security establishment, the indictment added.
His techniques for avoiding discovery included only traveling to Israel from European countries, and not from Turkey, where he also had business, said the indictment.
The indictment also alleged that he only traveled to Israel on his Belgian passport, always leaving his Iranian passport behind, that he bought a telephone for use only in Israel and that, except for once, he contacted his handlers in person in Iran and not by any electronic means in Israel or Europe.
Mansouri’s first visit to Israel started on July 29, 2012, and was for only a few days, but he began a longer visit on January 29, 2013, the indictment alleged. During his second visit he allegedly took photographs of various locations.
After each trip, his Iranian handlers carefully debriefed him about his activities and gave him instructions for his next trip.
Mansouri was found with photographs of a top-secret installation, the US Embassy and Ben-Gurion Airport, as well as a review of the security procedures at the airport, such as the types of questions asked to travelers.
Initially, Mansouri stuck to his cover story as instructed by his handlers while under interrogation.
However, during later questioning, “Ali Mansouri described entering Israel under a Belgian identity using the alias Alex Mans, as well as his recruitment and activation process by Iranian intelligence elements,” the Shin Bet said.