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Mossad agent to stand trial over bugging affair

An agent of Israel’s Mossad secret service is to stand trial in Switzerland. The Federal Court in Lausanne has decided the trial should go ahead in the first half of next year.

This content was published on November 11, 1999 - 12:14

An agent of Israel’s Mossad secret service is to stand trial in Switzerland. The Federal Court in Lausanne has decided the trial should go ahead in the first half of next year.

The agent, Issac Bental, is to be charged with illegal activities on behalf of a foreign power, political spying, wire tapping and the use of a faked foreign passport.

Bental was arrested in February 1998 along with four other Israelis close to an apartment building in Köniz on the outskirts of the capital, Berne.

The agents were caught while allegedly preparing to wiretap an apartment rented by a Lebanese man, whom they suspected of connections with the militant Hezbollah group, which is in conflict with Israeli forces and their allies in southern Lebanon.

Four of those arrested were immediately freed. Bental was only allowed out of Switzerland a month later after Israel paid bail of SFr3 million ($2 million) and assured Swiss authorities he would be available to stand trial.

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office filed the charges two months ago and it was up to the Federal Court -- Switzerland’s highest legal instance -- to decide whether to proceed.

It is not yet clear, however, if the proceedings will be public as Israel has expressed fears that the agent’s life could be put in danger.

The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported six weeks ago that the Justice Ministry had asked Swiss authorities for the proceedings to be held without the agent being present. The ministry reportedly wants the trial held behind closed doors.

Under certain circumstances, Swiss law allows trials to be held without the presence of the defendant and the public. But no decision in this case has yet been made.

From staff and wire reports.

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