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Israeli justice minister visits Berne

The forthcoming trial in Switzerland of an Israeli secret service agent is expected to be discussed by the Israeli justice minister, Yossi Beilin (file picture), and the Swiss government at a meeting in Berne today.

This content was published on March 22, 2000 - 11:00

The forthcoming trial in Switzerland of an Israeli secret service agent is expected to be discussed by the Israeli justice minister, Yossi Beilin (file picture), and the Swiss government at a meeting in Berne today. The Mossad agent was arrested in Switzerland in 1998.

Beilin will be meeting his Swiss counterpart, Ruth Metzler, and the foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, for a brief session described officially as "courtesy visit". The Swiss authorities say there is no fixed agenda for the talks, but it is widely expected that the agent's trial will feature prominently.

The Mossad agent was arrested together with four others on February 18, 1998, attempting to install a bugging device on the telephone line of a suspected Islamic militant living near Berne. He was detained while the other four were released after questioning.

The agent, who has only been identified as "Y" in the Israeli media, was released on SFr3 million bail on April 26, 1998, but is due to return to Switzerland for his trial.

"The date has definitively been set at July 3," said Hans Wipraechtiger, the judge who will preside over the trial. He said he expected the trial to last four days. The charges include political espionage, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

But Wipraechtiger said the crime was likely to be seen as less serious, and punishable with up to four years in jail, because the agent had made a partial confession. The trial at the Federal Court is due to be open, but Israel has indicated it would like it to be held behind closed doors, for security reasons.

During a visit to Berne last week, the Israeli foreign minister, David Levy, declined to comment on the case, saying it was a matter for the judicial authorities.

swissinfo with agencies

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