The Israeli secret service spied on Jörg Haider, the right-wing Austrian populist, using one of his closest aides to gather information on his contacts with Arab dictators. Peter Sichrovsky said that he had been a Mossad informant for five years until retiring from politics in 2002.
“I wanted to help Israel and certainly did not do anything wrong,” said Herr Sichrovsky who was secretary-general of Herr Haider’s Freedom party and a member of the European Parliament. The Austrian state prosecutor said yesterday that he would open an investigation to determine whether Herr Sichrovsky should be prosecuted.
Spying for a foreign power carries a jail sentence of up to three years in Austria.
The revelations, in the news weekly Profil, stunned the Austrian political class. Herr Sichrovsky, who is of Jewish origin, was a controversial figure for the conservative Right. The Jewish community regarded him as a traitor for working with Herr Haider, while anti-Semitic Freedom party activists made no secret of their distrust.
The Freedom party became a member of Austria’s governing coalition in 1999, prompting a diplomatic boycott by the European Union. Herr Haider had publicly praised the SS and Hitler’s employment policies. Israel withdrew its ambassador.
Herr Sichrovsky was supposed to help Herr Haider to make peace with the Jewish community. But at the same time the Israeli secret service was anxious to know what Herr Haider was up to.