Verdict expected in Mossad agent trial

Court sketch showing the accused Israeli agent (left) and Mossad defence lawyer, Raplh Zloczower Keystone

The verdict is expected on Friday in the case of an Israeli secret agent who took part in an unsuccessful operation against a Swiss-Lebanese man in Switzerland.

This content was published on July 7, 2000 - 07:44

The prosecution has asked the Federal Court to sentence the Mossad agent to 15 months in prison. His lawyers called for an acquittal.

The prosecutor said on Thursday the agent had knowingly broken the law when he tried to bug the telephone of the man, whom Israel suspected of extremist activities on behalf of the Hezbollah guerrilla group.

The agent, who was tried under the pseudonym Isaac Bental, admitted the charges of political espionage, acting illegally for a foreign country, and repeatedly using false identity documents

In his summing-up to the court in Lausanne., the deputy federal prosecutor, Felix Bänziger, said the Mossad agent had knowingly participated in an illegal operation against Abdallah el-Zein.

He said there was no proof el-Zein was engaged in terrorism, and that the case fell far short of being an emergency situation.

The victim ran an Ahl El-Beit centre, which promotes adherence to Shi'ite Islam. But Swiss police said they had found no proof that the centre was connected to Hezbollah.

The five-day trial marked the first time a Mossad agent had ever been subjected to such scrutiny by an overseas court. Even so, the prosecutor and judges agreed to allow the man to continue hiding his true identity - even from the court - on the grounds that revealing it could endanger his life.

Agent "Bental" was arrested on the outskirts of Berne in 1998, when he and four others were caught trying to install a wiretap to record el-Zein's telephone conversations.

The other four agents were released, but "Bental" was jailed and released on bail on condition that Israel sent him back to face trial.

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