Israeli Soldier Who Leaked Info to Right-wing Activists Sentenced to Nearly Four Years in Prison

Elad Ya'akov Sela was accused of passing police, Shin Bet secrets to right-wing activists suspected of violence against Palestinians. His sentence was result of plea bargain.

Olivier Fitoussi

An Israeli Defense Forces soldier who leaked information to right-wing activists about pending arrests was sentenced to three years and nine months imprisonment on Tuesday.

The sentence given to the soldier, Elad Ya'akov Sela, was the result of a plea bargain that took a possible charge of espionage – which can carry a life sentence – off the table. Sela was found guilty of passing confidential information.

The original charge of "passing information to unauthorized persons with the intention of harming the security of the state" was one of the harshest ever filed against an IDF soldier.

According to the indictment, Sela opened more than 15,000 classified intelligence documents that had been shared between the country's intelligence agencies. Many of them originated with the police and the Shin Bet security agency.

He was found guilty of searching the army's computer system "for documents dealing with 'price tag' activists from the Bat Ayin settlement where he lives and for security activities against them." "Price tag" refers to right-wing activists who mount revenge attacks against Palestinians.

For example, Sela searched for information about coordinators dealing with Bat Ayin in the Shin Bet's Jewish Division, informed hate crime suspects of pending activities and gave them intelligence information that had been gathered on them.

Sela was drafted in the special framework for Haredi soldiers and worked as an intelligence analyst in the Etzion brigade, which is responsible for the Bethlehem area that includes Bat Ayin.

The military court ruled that Sela's actions had harmed the state, because the information he provided enabled activists to prepare for security force raids and to continue their activities against Palestinians.

In addition to the prison sentence, Sela was reduced in rank to private. The IDF spokesman said in a statement that the sentence indicated a stiffening of policy.

"Crimes of this sort need to be eliminated from the army and anyone who betrays the trust placed in him will be severely punished," the statement said.

Sela's attorney from the Honenu organization, Adi Kedar, said that "the plea bargain brings to an end an affair that began with a great noise and allegations of espionage. The amended charge sheet accurately reflects the facts."