Suspected Israeli spies deported, PM confirms

3.00pm - UPDATE

The two Israeli men accused of spying in New Zealand have been deported, Prime Minister Helen Clark's office confirmed today.

A spokeswoman for Helen Clark said as of yet there had been no approaches from the Israeli Government concerning the affair.

"The ball is in their court," the spokeswoman said.

Eli Cara and Uriel Kelman were taking a business class flight to Hong Kong after being released from prison before dawn today.

They were expected to fly from Hong Kong on to Israel with police escorts.

They left Mt Eden Prison just after 5am this morning after being sentenced to six months prison in the Auckland High Court for passport fraud.

Two cars arrived at the gates of Mt Eden prison when the pair were released this morning. One car waited at the gates while another drove inside, then came out several minutes later with people, believed to be the Israelis in the back seat of the vehicle.

The two cars in convoy then left the prison at speed.

There was no sign of the men at Auckland International Airport today. But at about 7am lawyer Nigel Faigan, who had represented Cara in court, arrived with a man who had attended court hearings.

Mr Faigan would not comment on Mr Cara's departure.

A police officer at the airport told the Herald that from his list of people being deported, there was no indication that the men were supposed to be leaving today.

The official date for the pair's release was Friday.

But the Corrections Department policy is that prisoners can only be released Mondays to Wednesdays.

The policy also says that prisoners are supposed to be released between 7am and 8pm unless arrangements had been made with police or courts or unless there were special circumstances.

Cara and Kelman had completed the statutory one-third of their six-month sentence for trying to obtain a New Zealand passport. They were members of a group believed to be part of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad.

The Government is still waiting for an apology from the Israeli Government.

The Israeli Government has never acknowledged their status, but Helen Clark said after they were sentenced that they were intelligence agents.

The Government demanded an apology from Israel, suspended high-level official visits and delayed the appointment of Israel's new Australia ambassador to also cover New Zealand.

Helen Clark said yesterday she was still waiting for an apology, and the diplomatic sanctions would stay until she got one.

"We don't like having to take the sort of measures we did take against a country we've had friendly relations with," she told One News.

Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff said in July the dispute between the two countries could not be resolved until the Israeli Government explained itself and apologised.

Cara and Kelman pleaded guilty to the charges against them, and Mr Goff said six months' imprisonment, of which they would serve only two months, was "relatively light punishment".

- HERALD STAFF, NZPA

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 18 Apr 2014 04:47:09 Processing Time: 54ms