Iran arrests alleged ‘Israeli spy network’

Iranian police announced the capture of an espionage cell of undisclosed nationality, in addition to the separate arrest of a Swedish national, accused of being affiliated with Israel’s secret service.

By Erin Viner

“The arrested five members of this spy network were given various pledges from (Israel’s) Mossad, including financial promises, to gather information from important areas across the country,” the law enforcement intelligence organization said in a statement reported by the semi-official ILNA news agency last Thursday.

Iranian Minister of Intelligence Esmail Khatib claimed a day earlier that Tehran had foiled subversive actions from the “Zionist regime” and that his nation’s security forces have successfully carried out a number of operations against Israel over the last few months, although he failed to provide details of his proclamations.

The official IRNA news agency reported this past Saturday the arrest of a Swedish citizen on espionage charges. An Intelligence Ministry statement was cited as saying that the individual, who was not identified, had been under surveillance during several previous trips to Iran due to “suspicious behavior” including past trips to Palestinian territories and non-tourist destinations in Iran, as well as “suspicious contacts” including Europeans.

The Intelligence Ministry statement accused Sweden of “proxy spying” on behalf of Israel, which it said would draw a “proportional reaction” from Iran.

The arrest follows the sentencing of a former Iranian official by a Stockholm court for war crimes on 14 July. Hamid Noury was handed a life term behind bars following his conviction for involvement in the mass execution and torture of political prisoners at an Iranian prison in the 1980s. Tehran condemned the verdict as politically motivated.

In recent years, Iran has arrested dozens of foreigners and dual nationals predominantly on spying and security-related allegations, in what human rights groups have branded as a tactic to win concessions from abroad by inventing charges, which Tehran denies.

Sweden’s Foreign Ministry said it was aware of the case.

Swedish-Iranian researcher Ahmadreza Djalali is awaiting execution in Iran after having been convicted on charges of spying for Israel.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, which oversees the foreign intelligence agency Mossad, declined comment on the reported arrests.

Arch enemies Iran and Israel have long been engaged in a “shadow war,” including mutual accusations of cyber warfare. In addition, Jerusalem accuses Tehran of working to develop atomic weapons and using terrorist proxies to launch terror attacks against Israeli citizens. In July, United States President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid signed a joint pledge to prevent Iranian acquisition of atomic arms. The Ayatollah regime, which has repeatedly vowed to annihilate the Jewish State, insists its nuclear program is peaceful and denies seeking nuclear weapons; while maintaining that Israel has carried out a number of assassinations of its military and nuclear leaders, including that of a senior officer in May. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied any such actions.

Iran often accuses its enemies or rivals abroad, such as Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia, of trying to destabilize the Islamic Republic.