TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ A Soviet emigre with close links to Israeli politicians and army officers was convicted today of spying for the Soviet Union and sentenced to nine years in prison, his attorney said.

Shabtai Kalmanovich, 43, was convicted in a closed Tel Aviv district courtroom of espionage and having contacts with a foreign agent, said attorney Amnon Zichroni. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

The three-judge panel dropped a third, more severe charge of aggravated espionage which carried a life sentence, Zichroni said.

He said Kalmanovich would be credited with the year he already has spent in prison and would serve another eight years in jail.

The trial was held behind closed doors since Sept. 5. No details have been given of Kalmanovich's spying activities.

The conviction came during a gradual thaw in relations between Israel and the Soviet Union. Moscow severed ties with the Jewish state after the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel and the Soviet Union have exchanged consular delegations, and relations were boosted earlier this month when Israel cooperated with Soviet authorities in returning four armed Soviet hijackers who landed in Israel.

Kalmanovich was arrested last December.

After emigrating from the Soviet Union in 1971, Kalmanovich established himself as an international businessman, an activist in the Labor Party and a socialite who mixed with leading politicians and senior army officers, according to Israeli media reports.

He also worked briefly as an aide to former Israeli legislator Shmuel Flatto-Sharon.