Two alleged Mossad spies, jailed in New Zealand in July, have been released from prison and deported. Eli Cara and Uri Kelman were freed after serving two months of six-month sentences for fraudulently attempting to obtain a New Zealand passport. They were released early for good behavior.
Cara and Kelman were released from Mt. Eden prison just before dawn on Wednesday and turned over to waiting New Zealand immigration officials.
They were then sent home to Israel.
The case has heightened diplomatic tensions between Israel and New Zealand, with New Zealand’s prime minister, Helen Clark, imposing visa restrictions on visiting Israeli diplomats and banning communication with Israel’s honorary consul.
New Zealand has further demanded an apology from Israel for the flap involving the two men, who Clark has described as “intelligence agents.”
The men have appealed their convictions.
Clark was slated to address New Zealanders on Wednesday on the case.
Orna Sagiv, Israel’s acting ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, told JTA from her office in Canberra: “Israel deeply regrets the current state of the relationship between our two countries. We will do all we can to restore it to the high level and warm relationship we enjoyed in the past. But this has to be done through diplomatic channels and I cannot comment on any current dialogue.”
New Zealand’s foreign minister, Phil Goff, told media the dispute could not be resolved until the Israeli government explained itself and apologized.
Following the sentencing of the men, New Zealand Jewry experienced anti-Semitic attacks never before seen in the country’s history. In one incident, 113 headstones were overturned in a Jewish cemetery.
Members of the New Zealand government attended solidarity meetings following the attacks.
“The Jewish community will more than welcome a return to the first-class relationship Israel had always enjoyed with New Zealand,” said Israel’s honorary consul, David Zwartz, who is also president of the New Zealand Jewish Council.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.