A retired Israeli army captain was arrested on suspicion of spying for Iran, a high-level Israeli official said Tuesday.
The former military officer had worked for four years as a bodyguard for Israel’s national security advisor and was in regular contact with Iran’s former defense minister, Amir Hatami, officials said.
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The suspect was employed as a maintenance man in the home of national security advisor Yaakov Amidror, an ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, between December 2014 and August 2016, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe is ongoing.
The suspect, who did not enter a plea when he appeared before a Tel Aviv court on Tuesday, was being held in a military jail, the official said.
Hatami has no public profile and appears not to have had a profile on social media.
Hatami, a brigadier general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, was defense minister from 2011 to 2012. He was fired when Iran held an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington.
Hatami left the Iranian military in 2007.
Iran and Israel have long been locked in a regional war of words over nuclear power and the Mideast.
Hatami was mentioned in a New York Times interview that pointed to Iran’s then-top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, as saying a bomb is “more convenient” for Israel than for Iran. The interview was written on Iranian government stationery by Roger Cohen, who now works as a Washington correspondent for the Times.
Hatami angrily denied any responsibility for the comments.
“Iran never in its 39-year history has issued any order to conduct the killing of an Israeli citizen,” he said, adding that Israel was simply angry because Tehran is resisting the United States and its allies.
Netanyahu has spoken out against the Iranian nuclear deal. In recent years, Israel has urged the world to keep the issue of Iran’s nuclear program front and center in Western negotiations with Tehran.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.