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02:55 PM, January 9, 2019
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Gonen Segev (image: The Times of Israel)

Former Israeli cabinet minister Gonen Segev has been sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment on charges of spying for Iran. The 63-year-old will be formally sentenced at a hearing on 11 February.

Segev, a former energy and infrastructure minister, was accused of leaking details about Israeli officials and security sites. He was later charged with “spying for Iran and serving Israel’s enemies,” Anadolu Agency reported Wednesday.

The former minister was arrested in June last year and was detained in Equatorial Guinea in May and was then extradited to Israel. He pleaded guilty to serious espionage and transfer of information to the enemy as part of a deal with prosecutors.

Israel's internal security service, Shin Bet, said in June that Segev had confessed to making contact with Iranian embassy officials in Nigeria in 2012 and visiting Iran twice to meet his handlers, the Anadolu Agency report added.

He was allegedly given a classified communications system to send coded messages and passed on "information related to the energy sector, security sites in Israel and officials in political and security institutions".

While Segev admitted to the charge of espionage, he reportedly told investigators that he had been trying to "fool the Iranians and come back to Israel a hero," BBC reported Wednesday.

An initial charge of "assisting an enemy during a time of war" was removed from his indictment in exchange for the guilty plea.

"The district attorney's office wants to reveal more details about the affair, and once it's out, it will be clear that Segev indeed had contacts with Iranians, but not to aid them," the BBC report quoted Segev's legal team as saying to Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

Segev has previously served prison time on criminal charges.

He was charged with trying to smuggle 30,000 ecstasy pills into Israel from the Netherlands using a diplomatic passport with a falsified expiry date in 2004. He admitted the charges as part of a plea bargain the following year.

The former minister has also been convicted of attempted credit card fraud.

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