Israel indicts Belgian-Iranian on spying charges

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel on Sunday indicted a Belgian-Iranian man its prime minister singled out in a high-profile speech at the United Nations on charges of spying for Iran.

Israel’s Justice Ministry said Ali Mansouri took notes on the security screenings at Israel’s international airport and photographed the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and a separate classified security installation that it did not identify.

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency announced Mansouri’s arrest last week, saying Iran recruited him last year and sent him to Israel to spy. He was arrested on Sept. 11 trying to leave Israel’s international airport.

A lawyer for Mansouri said the allegations are baseless.

The indictment said the Iranian-born Mansouri changed his name to Alex Mans after attaining Belgian citizenship in 2006. Mansouri is accused of trying to set up a company in Israel for another Iranian intelligence officer who was supposed to arrive in Israel in the future. The indictment says he visited Israel three times and met to debrief his intelligence handlers several times over the past year.

After initially sticking to his cover story as a Belgian businessman, the indictment says Mansouri eventually tied himself to Iranian intelligence.

In his speech last week to the United Nations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had arrested an Iranian agent trying to collect information “for possible attacks against the American Embassy in Tel Aviv.”

Israel announced the arrest as Netanyahu left for the U.S., leading to speculation that the timing was politically motivated. The amateur nature of the photos he took also raised doubts over the seriousness of the espionage he is charged with.

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