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Israeli court sentences Belgian to seven years in prison for spying for Iran

Under a plea bargain, Iranian-born Belgian Ali Mansouri has admitted to spying on Israel for Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards. But during his court hearing, he said was "under pressure" and feared for his life.

An Israeli court sentenced an Iranian-born Belgian to seven years in prison on Tuesday for spying for Iranian intelligence services. Ali Mansouri, who obtained Belgian citizenship through marriage, was arrested at Ben Gurion airport in 2013 while in possession of photographs of the US embassy in Tel Aviv and other sites.

Mansouri was sentenced for "aiding an enemy during war" and "espionage" on behalf of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, court documents showed. The defendant also admitted to having ties with Iranian intelligence, noted a statement by the prosecution.

"The court heard our arguments that the security of Israel was not compromised," Mansouri's defense lawyer Avigdor Feldman told reporters after the hearing.

"It was the Iranian secret services who put pressure on him and his family, and we feel that this verdict was rather fair and reasonable in view of the circumstances," Feldman said, adding that he did not expect his client to appeal.

The sentence was seen as lenient compared to the

death sentences handed down by Iran

in 2013 during an espionage case.

Spying 'under pressure'

Mansouri visited Israel three times after being recruited by a special operations unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards in 2012, Israel's domestic security service Shin Bet said.

His mission was to harm "Israel's security" by pretending to be "an innocent businessman and establish a company in Israel" that would serve as infrastructure for Iranian intelligence services, the indictment stated. After entering Israel in July 2012 using an alias and his Belgian passport, Mansouri traveled to Iran for debriefing. He traveled to Israel once more in January 2013 before being detained.

The Revolutionary Guards' special operations unit allegedly promised Mansouri a $1 million (939 thousand euros) award upon completing the mission. However, he admitted to accepting the mission "under pressure" and for fear of his life and the lives of his relatives in Iran, the court statement noted.

ls/rc (AP, dpa)

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