The Tel Aviv District Court yesterday lifted the gag order on part of retired brigadier general Yitzhak Yaakov's testimony from his trial on charges of passing on classified information to unauthorized persons with intent to prejudice the security of the state. At the request of the media, the court permitted publication of the testimony from earlier in the week, though certain comments that the state opposed releasing were censored. Yaakov's trial is taking place in camera.

Yaakov, who served as the head of special weapons development for the Israel Defense Forces during the period 1963-1973, was arrested by investigators from the Defense Ministry and the Israel Police in March. Up until 1995, he helped to establish a number of Israeli high-tech companies, including Elbit, Elron, Tadiran and Comverse.

Yaakov recently completed two novels, one fictional and the other his memoirs. The charge sheet states that he gave drafts of the manuscripts to individuals who are "not authorized by law [to view such material]."

During questioning by prosecuting attorneys Yehoshua Reznick and Natie Simhoni, Yaakov told the court that he intended to send the books to the Military Censor before they were published and that no one had prohibited him from giving copies of the manuscript to four individuals - three friends and a book editor.

"I saw this as part of the writing process," he told the court, "I understood that I had to send the final copy to the censor."

He related how when he had first been arrested, the Shin Bet security service had arranged a meeting between him and former defense minister and Likud MK Moshe Arens. Yaakov said that the former minister had told him that in his opinion, "the whole affair should have been hushed up."

Yaakov: "I think that at a certain stage, it was believed that I was a spy and that I was hiding things, and so Arens was sent to soften me up. They even conducted a polygraph test to make me reveal my secret papers. At that time, I had no more documents; I had given them all to the investigators."

The prosecution then turned Yaakov's attention to a letter he had sent with a copy of the supposed work of fiction in which the defendant stated that the story was based on the truth.

"Why did you write this as fiction?" asked Reznick, leading Yaakov to reply: "I wanted to sell the book, to sell myself. And as is the case in America, you do that with superlatives; you embellish, of course."

Yaakov then claimed that he honestly did not believe that the material in the book was secret. "This is the only explanation I have," he said, "I did not think that the material was confidential and I certainly did not think that the work of fiction was confidential. I tried every way possible to sell it. I wrote that I played a part in the misuse of all sorts of technologies mentioned in the book."

The court then intervened and asked: "Did you not think that because of your identity, people would not think that this was a work of fiction, but rather the truth?"

The defendant replied: "I can only tell you what I thought. I thought that I was not talking about something confidential."

Yaakov did, however, admit to discussing matters that had once been confidential, such as infra-red and air-to-surface missiles. The prosecution then asked: "Did you not check with anyone if the once-secret matters ever ceased to be confidential?" Yaakov replied that he had discussed these topics with others and that after the conversations he had been under the impression that "the matter wasn't so secret."

This prompted the court to ask if he had forgotten the General Staff guidelines that he had signed when taking up his post. "You promised to maintain confidentiality. You are not a little child; you are a respected man and a founder of high-tech companies. Are you trying to say that you did not know what you signed or that you do not remember?" The defendant said that he did not remember such an order.

When asked by the prosecution if he had intended to prejudice state security, a seething Yaakov answered: "I am trying to keep calm because this really angers and upsets me. One must be evil and a simpleton to accuse me of such a thing. How can they say that I intended to harm state security? They've gone out of their minds, in my opinion."