Prisoner X, Ben Zygier, was 'rational' before apparent suicide in Israeli prison cell

Lawyer claims Australian-born suspected Mossad spy was considering plea bargain

Sydney

Ben Zygier, the suspected Mossad spy previously known only as Prisoner X, was “rational” and “balanced” the day before he apparently hanged himself in a maximum-security Israeli prison, one of his lawyers has said.

Avigdor Feldman told Israel’s Channel Ten that Australian-born Mr Zygier had been considering a plea bargain offered by prosecutors. “I met with a balanced person … who was rationally weighing his legal options,” said Mr Feldman, adding that his client denied the “serious” charges he was facing. The exact nature of the charges remains unknown.

On Wednesday, after Australia’s ABC TV aired a documentary revealing Prisoner X’s identity, Israel admitted for the first time that it had secretly detained a man with dual citizenship for security reasons. However, it did not explain how Mr Zygier, 34 – who emigrated to Israel in 2000, married an Israeli woman and fathered two children – managed to kill himself while under 24-hour surveillance in a cell designed to be “suicide-proof”.

The cell was built to hold Yigal Amir, the ultra-Zionist who assassinated then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. Cameras inside the cell were supposed to be monitored around the clock, and Israeli newspapers have reported the room contained sensors to monitor temperature and heartbeat.

The Israeli Justice Ministry said that an inquiry had been ordered into possible negligence.

Mr Zygier’s family in Melbourne have declined to comment, but Harry Greener, a friend of Mr Zygier’s father, Geoffrey, a respected Jewish community leader, told Fairfax Media: “We all knew there was something suspicious and underhanded about Ben’s death.” Mr Greener said: “I think there should be justice for Ben, to find out what happened – because nobody really knows.” Mr Zygier had been a “friendly, warm, outgoing” person, he said, and his death had “gutted’ the Jewish community. Mr Zygier’s uncle, Willy, a musician, told ABC local radio in Melbourne that the saga was a “family tragedy”.

As the Australian government faced renewed pressure to explain its apparent failure to safeguard the welfare of one of its citizens, local media reported that Mr Zygier – known as Benjy – was one of at least three dual citizens suspected of using their Australian passports to travel to Lebanon, Syria and Iran on assignments for Mossad. Fairfax Media reported that before Mr Zygier’s arrest he and others were being investigated by Australia’s domestic intelligence agency, ASIO, whose suspicions had been aroused by them requesting new passports in Anglo-Australian names after emigrating to Israel. They allegedly used the passports to travel to Middle Eastern countries which bar Israelis and anyone with an Israeli passport stamp.

Austrlain media has suggested that Mr Zygier was jailed in Israel because he was going to reveal information about Mossad’s operations to the Australian authorities or the media.

The Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, told a parliamentary committee that officials – informed by ASIO of Mr Zygier’s arrest – had sought and received assurances that his legal and human rights would be respected.

However, the leader of the Australian Greens, Christine Milne, asked why the government handed “over the welfare of one of our citizens to the spooks”.

Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices