Doctoral Student at Israel's Technion Arrested for Contact With Foreign Agent

40-year-old Haifa resident who once worked for the Environmental Protection Ministry is on house arrest and barred from leaving the country through May

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The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa.
The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa.Credit: Yuval Tebol

A doctoral student at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology was arrested by the Shin Bet security service this week on suspicion of contact with a foreign agent.

The suspect, a 40-year-old Haifa resident, was arrested on Sunday and later put under house arrest with restrictions, as the charges established against her turned out to be less serious than what had initially been reported to authorities.

On Thursday, the Haifa Magistrate's Court barred her from entering Haifa, except for a weekly visit to the Technion that must be coordinated with police.

The woman worked as an environmental consultant at factories belonging to the Bazan Group, a refinery and petrochemicals conglomerate. She had also been appointed a commissioner by the Environmental Protection Ministry on emissions permits for Haifa Bay factories.

A police representative involved in the investigation claimed at her hearing on Thursday that the doctoral student committed "a very serious crime," and requested that the conditions of her house arrest be made more stringent.   

Judge Zaid Falah partially accepted the police's requests. In addition to barring the woman from Haifa, he forbade her from using digital media for two months and banned her from leaving the country through the month of May. He further ruled that she cannot have contact with the other people involved in her case. Falah noted that there is a risk this woman will endanger public security.

Falah did not accede to two of the police's requests during the hearing – that she be barred from meeting with any of the organizations in which she is a member, including the student union, for 90 days, and that she be prevented from entering the West Bank.

The student's attorney, Khaled Mahajna, said during the hearing that his client "is someone who was detained for one day for these suspicions and then released." He added that since the prior hearing on her case, "she has been staying in Haifa and there are no recorded incidents of her causing disturbances."

The Technion said in response that they are unfamiliar with the subject, and officials from the Environmental Protection Ministry refused to comment on the claims, but said that the woman has not worked for the ministry in years.

The Bazan Group said in response that the suspect "worked as a consultant on environmental quality for Bazan beginning in August 2019 until June 2020. Prior to starting her job, she passed a background check, and Bazan accepted the approvals of all of the relevant state sources entrusted with the subject."

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