JERUSALEM (JTA) – The instruction to lift a gag order on the arrest of a spy for Iran came from top Israeli government officials and could be an attempt to combat a softening on Iran.
The Petach Tikvah Magistrates’ Court on Monday agreed to extend the remand of Iranian-born Ali Mansouri, who traveled throughout Israel as Belgian businessman Alex Mans, for another eight days.
A gag order on the Sept. 11 arrest of Mansouri at Ben Gurion Airport was lifted on Sunday.
A police official said during Monday’s court hearing that the decision to lift the gag order came from high–level government officials.
The decision to go public with news about the spy appears timed to coincide with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to the United States, where he will attempt to combat the recent softening of President Obama and the Western world’s stance toward Iran.
Posing as a Belgian businessman, Mansouri is believed to have been spying on Israel for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. He was carrying photographs of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv when he was arrested.
Mansouri lived in Iran until 1980, and then in Turkey until 1997, when he received a visa for Belgium and changed his name. He married a Belgian woman, from whom he is now divorced.
According to reports, Mans has lived in Iran since 2007 and is married to an Iranian woman.
He reportedly told Israeli investigators that he was recruited by Iranian intelligence, the Revolutionary Guards’ Al-Quds Force, to spy on Israel and was promised about $1 million for his services.