News24

Poland to extradite German 'spy'

2010-08-05 22:45

Warsaw - An alleged Israeli spy will be extradited from Poland to Germany within 10 days to face charges linked to his suspected involvement in the slaying of a senior Hamas operative in Dubai earlier this year, a Polish appeals court ordered on Thursday.

The decision is the latest development in the case of Israel's suspected forgery of European passports allegedly used by members of a hit squad who entered Dubai and took part in the killing of the Hamas leader, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in a hotel in January. The decision is final and cannot be appealed.

Several European countries have been furious about the forgeries, including Britain, which expelled an Israeli diplomat over the matter in March.

The alleged agent, known as Uri Brodsky, is the first person to be charged by name among the Israelis suspected of being linked to the slaying. Israel has refused to comment on the matter. Brodsky is being held at a Polish prison.

He was arrested at Warsaw's international airport in June on a European warrant issued by Germany, which charged him with espionage and helping to falsely obtain a German passport.

An awkward situation

Germany's demand for Brodsky put Poland in an awkward situation given that it is a close ally to both Germany and Israel, which wanted him freed.

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk said in June that he did not want the matter to spoil the good relations that Poland enjoys with Israel, but also stressed that that European laws left the court little option but to approve the extradition.

Thursday's decision appeared to be something of a compromise because it ensures that Poland will extradite Brodsky to Germany but also guarantees that he will only be tried for forgery.

That outcome will spare Israel a possibly embarrassing high-profile espionage trial in Germany. It would also mean a lesser penalty if Brodsky is found guilty, since forgery carries a maximum sentence of three years in Germany but espionage five years.

A three-judge appeals panel on Thursday upheld a July ruling by Warsaw's district court that Brodsky be extradited to Germany on the forgery charges solely. The lower court argued that Brodsky could not be extradited on the espionage charges because espionage against Germany is not a crime in Polish law.

Consular support

"The decision of the court seems to be satisfying to all sides," Anna Mika-Kopec, Brodsky's defence lawyer, said after Thursday's verdict, which is final, was announced.

A spokesperson for the Federal Prosecutor's Office in Karlsruhe, Germany, Frank Wallenta, told The Associated Press that he could not comment on the case because the agency had not received an official notification from Polish authorities yet.

The Israeli Embassy in Warsaw also refused to comment on the matter, in line with a refusal all along by Israel to comment on the case. The embassy, however, has said that Brodsky is an Israeli citizen and that it has provided him with consular support.

Brodsky entered court wearing a dark blue rain jacket with the hood tightly pulled over his head and face hidden in his hands. However, he was not present for the ruling, read out by presiding Judge Piotr Rysinski.

Police in the United Arab Emirates said the elaborate hit squad linked to the January 19 slaying of al-Mabhouh - one of the founders of Hamas' military wing - involved some 25 suspects, most of them carrying fake passports from European nations and Australia.

Among the faked passports, according to Dubai police, was one issued by the German city of Cologne with Brodsky's alleged involvement. The German weekly magazine "Der Spiegel" reported that the passport was issued to a man named Michael Bodenheimer, the descendent of a German Jew living in Israel.