The former Israeli minister of infrastructure and energy (1995-6) Gonen Segev has been arrested and, if convicted, faces the death penalty.

The arrest was revealed on Monday’s by the Israeli Security Agency (ISA).

The former minister of the Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Perez governments is the highest-ranking official to be charged with espionage. Executions are extremely rare in Israel. The only execution of an Israeli citizen was of Meir Tobiansky in 1948. High profile espionage cases resulted in life imprisonment.

The former minister is accused of passing on information on locations of security centres as well as energy infrastructure; he is also believed to have used political contacts to secure information that was more recent than 20 years old.

Segev was arrested in Equatorial Guinea in May and was extradited to Israel.

Segev admits contact with Iranian officials but claims he used that network to the benefit of Israel, Hebrew media reports. The prosecution has established he met with Iranian handlers in hotels and safe houses around the world and used encryption devices to pass on information.

According to Channel 10, Segev says he had no political or economic motive to cooperate with Iran and denies passing on classified information.

Segev was found guilty of drug smuggling of ecstasy pills from the Netherlands in 2006. He was sentenced to five years in prison, serving approximately three. He then moved to Nigeria, where it is believed he was recruited by Iran in 2012, The Times of Israel report.