Mossad agent on trial in Switzerland admits chargesBy Amnon Barzilai, Ha'aretz, Tuesday, July 4, 2000
The trial of a Mossad agent caught trying to install a wiretap in the apartment of a Hezbollah affiliate opened yesterday in the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Lausanne. The agent, who identified himself as Yitzhak Ben Tal, admitted to the three charges against him: operating illegally for a foreign country, state espionage and repeated use of forged identity documents.
A group of five Mossad agents were caught attempting to install the equipment in the apartment of Abdallah Zein, a Hezbollah member, in Bern in February 1998. The other four were initially questioned by police but released the same night.
The panel of five judges announced that they would sentence Ben Tal by Friday at the latest.
The trial opened yesterday afternoon with a short description of the chain of events that led to Ben Tal's capture. The discussion was short and to the point because of the agent's readiness to cooperate with the court. Ben Tal was then asked to take the witness stand to answer the judges' questions.
Speaking in Hebrew through an interpreter, Ben Tal said, "If I reveal my real identity, that will harm my personal security" His attorney, Ralph Zloczower, told the panel of judges that he himself does not know his client's real name. The judges accepted this and decided not to press the man to reveal his true identity.
Ben Tal then related the events surrounding his capture to the court. He said that he arrived in Switzerland in 1998 to examine Zein's apartment in a Bern suburb. Zein is a Swiss resident of Lebanese decent who is connected to Hezbollah. Ben Tal said he returned to Switzerland a month later with two men and two women. Police were alerted to the residential block when a neighbor heard sounds coming from the apartment. The five were caught by the police while trying to place a tap on Zein's phone. Ben Tal was held by police when he could not explain what he was doing with a suitcase full of electronic gear in the cellar of a private residence.
Ben Tal said that he had been told that Zein had already sent agents to Israel to carry out attacks. "They told me that he was responsible for terrorist attacks," he told the court. He refused to answer any further questions on the Mossad's operations. He also denied that he had any information on the other four agents. He said that he has no link with those people.