Germany frees Mossad agent

The Israeli agent arrested two months ago in connection with the alleged assassination of senior Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in January, was released over the weekend and returned to Israel.

The man known as Uri Brodsky was arrested two months ago in Poland, on a German EU-wide arrest warrant.

Brodsky was arrested on charges that a year earlier he had helped another man receive a German passport in the name of Michael Bodenheimer. The passport was used by the team who, according to Dubai police, carried out Al-Mabhouh's assassination.

The real Bodenheimer is a strictly Orthodox rabbi living in Israel who did not know that his name had been used on a German passport. According to footage and airport records presented by the Dubai police, the hit team used British, Irish, Australian, French and German passports, which caused diplomatic embarrassment for Israel and the expulsion of a number of diplomats.

The arrest of Brodsky in June was a further complication, because the Mossad agent, who had been instrumental in acquiring the passports for the Al-Mabhouh hit, had been sent abroad again using the same identity.

Last week Poland handed him over to Germany, but the decision of the Cologne prosecutor to indict him on only a minor charge meant that he could go home almost immediately.

Historian Michael Bar-Zohar, who has specialised in the past and current history of the Mossad, said this week: "The arrest of Brodsky is one of those cases in which the Mossad, which has such extraordinary capabilities, makes amateurish mistakes as a result of classic Israeli self-confidence and arrogance."

But in Professor Bar-Zohar's opinion, the use of authentic passports from friendly countries in the Al-Mabhouh hit was justified, despite the ensuing diplomatic crisis.

"When an agent is operating in a European country, you can take the risk of using a fake passport," he said. "If you get caught, it is not the end of the world.

"But in an Arab country, you must have a real passport, one that if they call the consul, he can verify. It can turn out to be a matter of life and death."

    Last updated: 2:09pm, August 20 2010