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Respected Israeli Scientist Doing Time for Soviet Spying

August 4, 1993
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Israelis learned this week that a man they had last heard about a decade ago has been serving time in prison since then for espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union.

Before his closed-door trial and conviction, Professor Marcus Klingberg had worked as the deputy director of the private, non-governmental Biological Institute in Ness Ziona.

But for the last decade, he has been held in solitary confinement, serving an 18-year jail sentence for espionage.

As often happens in such cases, the story first broke in a foreign publication — as a footnote in a book written about a former East German lawyer active in East-West spy exchanges.

Learning that the Klingberg case had been mentioned in a biography of Wolfgang Vogel, Israeli reporters informed the chief censor recently that they were applying to the Supreme Court for an injunction giving them the right to publish the story.

Many of these journalists had known about the case but were denied permission to print the story by the Israel military censor.

This time, the censor gave his personal permission to run the story rather than wait for a court order.

Klingberg, now 75, immigrated to Palestine in 1947.

He came from Poland and the Soviet Union, where he had studied chemistry.

He subsequently became a world-renowned expert on chemical warfare and epidemiology.

At the Biological Institute, Klingberg was appointed head of the department of epidemiology. He was also in charge of Tel Aviv University Medical School’s department of preventive medicine.

But Klingberg’s distinguished career was cut short in 1983, when he suddenly disappeared.

It was later learned, without official confirmation, that Klingberg had been a Soviet “mole” planted before his arrival in Palestine.

He was detected by the Israeli Secret Service in the early 1980s and subsequently tried under the strictest secrecy and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

The Klingberg affair has revived the controversy here about the legality and morality of secret trials.

In a similar case, Israel revealed in June that a former member of its army intelligence corps, Maj. Yossi Amit, was serving a prison sentence for spying on behalf of an unnamed country, widely believed to be the United States.

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