The family of Ben Zygier, the Israeli-Australian Mossad agent who until this week was known only as ‘Prisoner X’, will reportedly be paid millions of shekels in compensation by the Israeli government, after a secret report into his death in prison in 2010 concluded that he had committed suicide.
The revelations, reported in the Haaretz newspaper today, come after a secret Ministry of Justice investigation, which was concluded just six weeks ago. Reports of the deal came as the Israeli media published the first interviews with prison guards at the high security Ayalon jail where Zygier was held until his death in December 2010, two days after the birth of his second daughter.
Zygier’s identity was revealed this week after Australia’s ABC television broadcast details of the case. There are still no official details about what crime he is supposed to have committed.
Zygier was housed in a high-tech cell designed for specifically for Yigal Amir, the killer of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. “Nobody was permitted to be in contact with him. We gave him food three times a day, and only one guard was allowed to bring the food inside and none of us knew his name,” one prison worker said. “I don’t understand how he managed to commit suicide, with four cameras in his cell documenting him around the clock.”
Other reports have instead suggested that the state has admitted no fault in the suicide, and that Zygier’s family are still seeking compensation, with talks at an early stage. So far, none of Zygier’s relatives have commented on the case.
It is understood that Zygier’s cell was fitting with CCTV and that while he had books to read during his solitary confinement, he was allowed access to little else. It has been argued that he could only have killed himself in the bathroom of the cell.
So far, Israel has only confirmed that Zygier’s identity, and has not commented on the suggestion that he was a Mossad agent. The high profile Israeli lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, who met Zygier the day before his death said that a Mossad liaison officer had arranged the meeting.
Mr Feldman said Zygier had been indicted for “grave crimes” without specifying what they were. Zygier was considering a plea bargain, and had insisted that he was not guilty of the charges.
Speculation on what Zygier did have centred on his dealings with Iranian agents, and possibly that he had become a double agent. Australian media reports have instead suggested that rather being a traitor, Zygier was someone who was too vocal about his membership of the Mossad and that any charges are likely to be related to an unintentional breach of security.