Home cleaner accused of spying Gantz denies spying was in Iran’s name

Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s house cleaner, who has been accused of attempting to spy on the minister on behalf of Iran, challenged on Thursday the accusation that the Iranians were behind the espionage.

Omri Goren appeared by video link in Lod District Court for a remand hearing, which was postponed because his defense attorney claimed he had not received all of the material in the case. The pre-trial detention hearing was delayed until early January, but the court ordered Goren to remain in custody until then.

Before the hearing began, and under unclear circumstances, reporters managed to address Goren on video as he waited for the hearing to begin.

A Channel 12 reporter asked him why he tried to spy for Iran.

“Who said it was the Iranians? They were hackers on Telegram, ”Goren replied. Journalists were then apparently barred from asking further questions.

Attorney Gal Wolf, Goren’s representative in the Public Defender’s Office, told the court that Goren was being held as a prisoner for undermining national security and was not allowed to make phone calls.

Wolf told media the hearing was delayed because he still had not received all of the material in the case that he said was “pouring in”.

“It’s inconceivable – to take a person and put them in solitary confinement as a sort of punishment and not allow them out-of-the-box communication – and certainly not with their defense attorneys,” Wolf said.

Screenshot from video of lawyer Gal Wolf speaking with the media after a removal hearing for his client Omri Goren, accused of offering to spy on the Iranian defense minister, seen at the district court in Lod, December 2, 2021 (Channel 12 News)

Wolf told the court that anyone wishing to visit Goren where he is being held at the Russian compound in Jerusalem needs special permission. The lawyer requested that his client be allowed to phone his family and that he be allowed to speak freely with his lawyer.

Presiding Judge Ido Druyan-Gamlielle ordered the Israeli Prison Service to clarify the situation and explain why Goren was not allowed to speak freely by phone with his lawyer.

The Shin Bet security service revealed last month that it had arrested Goren – a convicted bank robber who served multiple prison terms – for allegedly offering to spy on Gantz for Iran.

Goren was hired before Gantz became Minister of Defense, and it turned out that the Shin Bet never looked at his background. Gantz was the IDF’s chief of staff before entering politics.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at a ceremony honoring wounded soldiers in Tel Aviv on November 21, 2021 (Tomer Neuberg / Flash90)

According to the Shin Bet, Goren contacted in November “a personality affiliated with Iran and offered to help him in various ways, given his access to the minister’s home.”

In an indictment against Goren, the character has been identified as a representative of Black Shadow, which carried out a major cyberattack on civilian Israeli websites last month, including stealing data from a popular Israeli LGBT dating site. .

Although the indictment does not explicitly address Goren’s motives, it did indicate that he was acting for financial reasons, telling the group that he would “transfer information from home to [Black Shadow] in exchange for a sum of money.

According to the indictment, he took photographs of Gantz’s desktop, computer, phone and tablet; a closed safe and a crusher; photos of Gantz and his family; and a copy of the Minister’s local property tax payments.

Omri Goren (Channel 12 screenshot)

Channel 12 News reported that Goren contacted Black Shadow on the Telegram messaging app using a fake identity, and said he worked for the Minister of Defense and could help the hacking group in various ways. . He allegedly asked for $ 7,000 to spy on Gantz.

Wolf said his client admitted to some of the offenses he was accused of, but denied committing the security crimes attributed to him.

The lawyer told The Times of Israel last month that his client “was not exposed to any security-related material” while working at Gantz’s home – echoing the claim by the Gantz security service. Shin Bet.

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