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Israel accuses defence minister’s household staffer of Iran-related espionage

FILE PHOTO: Israeli cabinet meeting in Jerusalem
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz walks past the media during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, August 1, 2021. Abir Sultan/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

November 18, 2021

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel has charged a member of Defence Minister Benny Gantz’s housekeeping staff with espionage, saying on Thursday he offered to spy on him on behalf of “a person identified with Iran”, the country’s arch-enemy.

In a statement, the Shin Bet security service said the suspect corresponded with the unnamed person over social media. It said he provided photographs taken in the house as proof he had access and proposing installing malware on Gantz’s computer.

Tensions run high between Iran and Israel over Tehran’s nuclear programme and what Israeli officials describe as its military entrenchment and support of Israel’s enemies in the region.

The Shin Bet said the suspect, who performed housekeeping and cleaning tasks in Gantz’s residence, was indicted on espionage charges by a court in Lod, a city near Tel Aviv. It said he was arrested after an investigation earlier this month.

It was not immediately clear whether he had entered a plea.

The Public Defender’s Office, which assigned a lawyer to aid the suspect, said he had acted out of “financial duress” and had not intended to harm national security.

Gal Wolf, the attorney representing him, implied on Kan public radio that the man had intended to extract money without actually being able to carry out any espionage.

“A person can boast and say he can deliver the goods, (but) the Shin Bet’s statement does not stand the test of reality,” Wolf said.

In its announcement, the Shin Bet said that while the suspect posed a potential danger to national security, he “was not exposed to classified material and subsequently none was passed on from him to the elements with whom he made contact”.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mark Heinrich)

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