A man from the anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox Natorei Karta sect who was charged with attempting to pass sensitive information about Israel to Iran in August will serve four-and-a-half years in prison, according to the terms of a plea bargain approved by the Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday.
Yitzhak Bergil, 47, who was arrested by the Shin Bet and Israel Police in July, reached the plea deal with the State Attorney's Office after confessing to the charges against him.
The Jerusalem State Attorney’s Office filed the indictment in August with the district court on charges of intent to commit treason and contacting a foreign agent.
The Jerusalem Post has learned that the classification of spying for which Bergil was charged is considered relatively low on the spectrum. The sentence of four-and-a-half years was equal to, or more severe than the punishment meted out for similar offenses in the past.
At an unknown date, Bergil decided to make contact with the Iranian government in order to collect intelligence on Israel and send it to them, the indictment alleges.
To do this, he went online to check where he could approach an Iranian embassy, said the indictment.
On January 16, 2011, he flew to Berlin, and two days later approached the embassy there to tell the Iranians that he was an Israeli and wanted to speak to them. At the time he was clothed in his regular haredi dress, including black and white clothes, and tzizit ritual fringes.
He was brought to Iranian representatives, including a man who introduced himself as Hagi Baba and two others, said the indictment.
He told Baba that he was against the Jewish state, wanted the state to be taken over by non-Jews, was ready to provide them intelligence and was even ready to “kill a Zionist,” if necessary, according to the indictment.
He baited the Iranians, asking them why they continued to fail to prevent sabotage and attacks by Israel within the Islamic Republic, said the indictment.
The Iranians responded with annoyance, noted the indictment, saying that he should be embarrassed to insult them when he was seeking asylum.
Bergil retorted that he was not seeking asylum, but wanted to help with spying, said the indictment.
He returned to Israel on January 20, 2011.
He kept up his connection with the Iranian officials by email, using Internet cafes, and via telephone calls made from public phones near his place of residence in Jerusalem, the Shin Bet and the indictment said.
The Shin Bet said that under questioning, the man confessed that he worked “out of a hatred for the State of Israel and in exchange for financial compensation.”
One place where he checked his email account for messages from the Iranians was the Vital Hotel at 141 Jaffa Road in the capital, said the indictment. Two spots where he used public telephone calls to contact the Iranians were on Straus Street and Kanfei Nesharim Street in the city.
A fringe ultra-Orthodox sect established in Jerusalem in 1938, Natorei Karta (Aramaic for “Guardians of the City”) believes Israel can be reestablished only after the coming of the Messiah. The group therefore rejects Zionism and opposes the existence of the state.
Members of the sect in Israel and the US are known to burn the Israeli flag and have sent representatives to attend conferences in Iran in the past.
Last year, Arabic media reported that members of the sect met with Hezbollah officials in Beirut.