Facing Trial in Germany Poland to Extradite Alleged Mossad Agent

Uri Brodsky is accused of helping a Mossad agent secure a German passport for use in the alleged murder of a Hamas official in Dubai. On Thursday a Polish court ruled that he could be extradited to Germany. But legal complications mean he may just be facing a fine.

Hiding his face, Israeli citizen Uri Brodsky, is escorted to court on Thursday.
AP

Hiding his face, Israeli citizen Uri Brodsky, is escorted to court on Thursday.

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It sounded like good news at first: A Polish appeals court on Thursday ruled that a man who is suspected of helping a Mossad agent can be extradited to Germany.

The Warsaw appeals court upheld the decision by a lower court that Poland is to hand over Uri Brodsky, who is accused of helping a Mossad agent to secure a German passport. The passort was allegedly used in connection with the murder of a Hamas official in Dubai in January.

But there is a snag. The German government, as well as the judiciary, has serious doubts about whether Brodsky can be charged with espionage. It is likely that the suspect could come away with a mild sentence for a much lesser charge.

The extradition to Germany is likely to take place soon. A spokesman for the court told SPIEGEL ONLINE shortly after the decision that it could happen within the next 10 days and that the date depended on the German authorities. The spokesman emphasized that from now on the ball was firmly in the German legal system's court. "The case is closed for us," he said.

Spectacular Mossad Plot

The decision on this highly political case was awaited with great anticipation. Brodsky is accused of helping an Israeli intelligence agent when he applied for and received a German passport in Cologne in the spring of 2009, using a sham story about his father being a victim of the Nazi regime. The agent later travelled with the documents to Dubai under the assumed name of Michael Bodenheimer. Once there, he took part in the most spectacular Mossad murder plot of recent times.

The Mossad operation in Dubai was also the world-famous intelligence agency's biggest flop. The team, disguised as tourists, managed to kill their target, Hamas functionary Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, on Jan. 19. But the police quickly uncovered the plot and even published the CC-TV images of the suspects. The fact that the agents used European passports has not only soured Israel's relations with Germany, but also with several other countries.

Despite the extradition, the German government and judiciary are faced with an uncomfortable problem. They may not be able to charge the suspect with espionage. The Polish authorities are only extraditing Brodsky on charges of forgery, relating to his having provided false information when applying for his passport in Cologne. Legally he may only be charged with that offence in Germany.

The decision is a bitter defeat for the German authorities. Neither the German Justice Ministry nor the Federal Prosecutor's Office were willing to make an official comment after the ruling. "We first of all have to have the decision in writing before us," the spokesman for the prosecutor's office told SPIEGEL ONLINE. The message from the ministry in Berlin was the same.

Just One of Many Aliases

The fact that Brodsky is only being charged with forgery means that the Federal Prosecutor's Office will have to cede authority over the case to the prosecutor's office in Cologne. The charge of "indirect false certification" and the acquisition of a passport by false pretenses would only carry a maximum of a fine.

Even that slight penalty is uncertain. The German authorities are not sure who exactly the suspect is. They are working on the assumption that the man arrested in Poland on June 4 with an Israeli passport is Brodsky. But they further assume that Uri Brodsky is just one of his many aliases.

The Israeli government, on the other hand, will be delighted. An espionage trial in Germany of all places would put the embarrassing Mossad assassination back in the headlines. The targeted killings of Hamas functionaries is uncontroversial in Israel. Yet the government is eager to avoid further attention on the Mossad's bumbling attack in Dubai.

The aftermath in Germany, however, might be just as embarrassing. Many will wonder how a suspect in a murder case can escape with just a fine.

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