December 15, 2017 / 12:46 PM / a month ago

Israel questions Iranian blogger after giving her asylum

JERUSALEM/LONDON (Reuters) - An Iranian blogger granted asylum in Israel has been questioned by its Shin Bet internal security service on suspicion of illegal communication with Iran, an Israeli official said on Friday.

Israel admitted Neda Amin, 33, who was previously based in Turkey, on humanitarian grounds in August, saying that she faced forced repatriation to Iran and would be at risk given her writings for an Israeli news site. Amin, who is originally from Tehran, says her father was Jewish.

Israeli law bars contact with the military or similar state agencies of its enemy Iran. As home to thousands of Iranian Jewish immigrants, Israel has in the past allowed citizens to visit family in Iran. But it outlawed these trips a decade ago over Shin Bet concerns that Tehran could recruit them as spies.

A Shin Bet statement said that, after moving to Israel, Amin communicated with “Iranian representatives” and was questioned about this by the security service, whose responsibilities include counter-espionage.

Asked by Reuters for clarification, an Israeli security official said only that the people with whom Amin was accused of communicating were not her relatives, and were inside Iran.

Amin was not under arrest, said the Israeli official, who requested anonymity, adding: “Whether there is a (criminal) case here is still being investigated.”

Amin later told Reuters she had been questioned for eight days over her contacts with a person she believed was an Israeli intelligence agent, but who her Shin Bet interrogators told her was in fact an Iranian government operative.

A Farsi-speaking man had called her in Turkey, describing himself as an Israeli intelligence officer who wanted to “protect” her from Ankara’s security services, she said, adding that they stayed in touch after she moved to Israel. Whenever the man phoned, Amin said, his number came up on her screen with an Israeli prefix. They never met, she said.

“They told me I am innocent as I have been in touch with an impostor, without knowing it,” she said. “I have spoken to this man, but I have done nothing against Israel’s security.”

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Peter Graff

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