Israel finally recognises the life and death of 'Prisoner X'

 

Jerusalem

Israel has partially lifted a gagging order in the mysterious case of ‘Prisoner X’ and formally recognised that an Israeli with dual citizenship had committed suicide in one of the country’s most secure prisons in 2010.

Earlier this week the Australian television network, ABC, broadcast a devastating documentary which claimed that ‘Prisoner X’ was an Australian-Israeli called Ben Zygier, a former Mossad agent whose incarceration was so secret that even his jailors didn’t know his name.

The Israeli Justice Ministry issued a statement, which makes no mention of Zygier's name, but it does concede, for the first time, that a man was held in a maximum security prison and that he died as a result of suicide.

“For security reasons, the prisoner was held under a pseudonym, but his family was notified of the arrest immediately. The prisoner was held by proxy of an arrest warrant issued by the court. The proceedings were overseen by senior officials in the Justice Ministry and he was duly represented in all the proceedings against him by attorneys Roi Belcher, Moshe Mazor and Boaz Ben-Zur,” the statement read. “The prisoner's legal rights were observes at all times, according to the law.”

The ministry’s statement said that six weeks ago, the investigation found that suicide was the cause of the prisoner’s death, however, a judge had recommended that the state investigate a negligence investigation.”

“National security prevents the release of any other details in this case,” the statement said.

The Israeli government hastily called a meeting of senior journalists and editors on Tuesday, warning them not to publish the story. The exact nature of what crime Zygier is supposed to have committed remains a mystery, and it appears that even Australian officials in Canberra were unaware of the case until earlier this week.

Leading Israeli human rights lawyer Avigdor Feldman told the Ynet news website: “I'm the last lawyer who saw him alive. They asked me to see him and a day after that he was gone. When I saw him, I saw no signs that he was going to kill himself. He sounded rational and he asked pertinent legal questions, that I can't expand on.”

Zygier was thought to be 34 years old when died and left behind an Israeli wife and two young daughters. It has been widely reported that he was an agent in the Mossad. Neither his Israeli nor Australian family have spoken about the circumstances of Zygier’s death, or what he was being held for.

It is understood that he died in Israel’s high security Ayalon prison, which is used to house Israel’s worst offenders, including Yigal Amir, the right-wing fanatic who killed then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.

He died on 15 December 2010 and his funeral was held in Melbourne a week later – however, his body was transported back to Australia under the name of Ben Allen, the same name used on Zygier’s second passport.

Australia ordered an inquiry into the case. The inquiry will focus on the suggestion that some foreign ministry officials – possibly diplomats based at the embassy in Tel Aviv – had been made aware in 2010 that Mr Zygier was being held in jail in Israel, but had not passed on the information to officials in Canberra.

“DFAT [Australia’s department of foreign affairs and trade] had advised that it was unaware of Mr Allen's detention in Israel,” a spokesman said.

“DFAT has now advised that some officers of the department were made aware of Mr Allen's detention at the time in 2010 by another Australian agency.”

The Australian newspaper The Age reported that Zygier was under investigation by Australian intelligence in the months before he was arrested in Israel. He was being looked into for fraudulent use of his Australian passport for espionage purposes.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

Recruitment Genius: Java Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity for an ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading digital agenci...

Recruitment Genius: Supply Chain Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Advisor

£13000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A chance to work for an extreme...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea