Page last updated at 17:14 GMT, Sunday, 25 May 2008 18:14 UK

Israel charges Iran spy suspect

Istanbul skyline
It is not clear if the suspect was living in Istanbul or visiting

An Iranian-born Israeli has been arrested and charged by the Israeli authorities with spying for Iran, police say.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, allegedly confessed to passing information to Iranian agents in Turkey while in Istanbul in 2006.

Charges were pressed behind closed doors and no other details were given.

Last year, Israel's Shin Bet security agency said it had foiled an Iranian plot to recruit Israelis as spies.

Earlier this year, an Israeli army psychiatrist, David Shamir, received a five-year prison sentence for attempting to make contact with foreign powers including Iran, with a view to selling them classified defence information.

Large communities

The Iranian-Israeli charged with spying lives abroad and was arrested on 8 May by police and Shin Bet agents while visiting Israel, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

He told interrogators he had repeatedly visited the Iranian consulate in Istanbul and had given the Iranians names of acquaintances serving in the Israeli security forces, the spokesman said.

A court banned publication of the suspect's name or further details of the case.

About 135,000 Israeli Jews have Iranian origins and Iran, though a bitter enemy of the Israeli state, is still home to the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside Israel - about 25,000 people.

Turkey, one of the few Muslim states to have strong relations with Israel, is often used by Israelis of Iranian extraction seeking to obtain travel documents to visit family.

Because Iran does not admit visitors with Israeli passports, they apply for Iranian passports instead.

In April 2007, Shin Bet accused Iranian intelligence of seeking to recruit as spies Israeli Jews of Iranian descent who went on family visits to Iran.

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