'Prisoner X' Ben Zygier who was secretly held in Israel 'leaked Mossad secrets' to Australian security services

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the need to keep some information out of the public domain

Jerusalem

Ben Zygier – the Mossad agent who killed himself two years ago after being secretly held in Israel’s most secure prison– had fed details about his missions to the Australian security services it has been claimed.

Israeli-Australian Zygier was known only as "Prisoner X" until a week ago when Australia’s ABC television identified him and claimed that he worked as a spy.

The same channel said that Zygier had met members of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio) – Australia’s secret service - during four trips home, and that he disclosed comprehensive details about his missions within the Mossad.

The Israeli government has refused to comment on Zygier, only belatedly confirming his identity but not that he was a Mossad operative and otherwise ordering newspapers not to report details of the case. If the ABC claims are correct, the Zygier case represents a serious breach for the agency.

It is believed that Zygier was one of three Israeli-Australian agents who took advantage of the Australian law that allows people to change their name every 12 months, and apply for a new passport each time. When Zygier’s body was returned to Australia, just weeks after the birth of his second daughter, it was under the name Ben Allen.

ABC believes that Mossad was particularly concerned that Zygier had revealed details of a complex mission in Italy, which involved setting up a fake electronics company and selling equipment to, among other, the Iranians. It is not clear to what extent the mission was a success, why Zygier decided to inform the Asio and how he got caught. The Australian government has been criticised for not providing sufficient support to Zygier when he was arrested, and has launched its own investigation into the affair.

Zygier was an enthusiastic Zionist who moved to Israel in the 1990s, after which he was recruited by the Mossad. The agency was eager to recruit those that had dual nationality, allowing them to travel freely on another country’s passport, without ever needing to identify themselves as Israeli.

Mossad used passports from several countries during an operation in early 2010 when a Hamas commander Mahmoud Mabhouh, who acted as an arms trader for the group, was killed in a Dubai hotel. Details of several of the fake passports were made public, and learning that an Australian passport had been used, Canberra expelled an Israeli diplomat in protest.

Zygier died in December 2010 after apparently hanging himself in solitary confinement cell, which was fitted with CCTV and designed for Yigal Amir the killer of then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Such was the secrecy surrounding his case that not even his prison guards were aware of his name.

Israeli government officials say that the secrecy surrounding Zygier’s case was tested up to the supreme court, which was persuaded by the government’s national security argument. A spokesman refused to comment on the ABC claims; it is believed that the Israeli government has no plans to comment further on the case.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged the case but defended the need to keep some information out of the public domain, citing Israel’s security needs.

“We are not like all other countries,” Mr Netanyahu said. “We are more threatened, more challenged, and therefore we have to ensure the proper activity of our security forces. Allow the security forces to work quietly so we can continue to live securely and safely.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Brendan Rodgers is confident that Sterling will put pen to paper on a new deal at Anfield
footballLIVE: Follow all the latest from tonight's Capital One quarter-finals
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Life and Style
tech
News
Not quite what they were expecting
news

When teaching the meaning of Christmas backfires

Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal at the Golden Globes in 2011
film
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

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

Rebranding Christmas

More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up
A Greek island - yours for the price of a London flat

A sun-kissed island - yours for the price of a London flat

Cash-strapped Greeks are selling off their slices of paradise
Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

New system means that evergreen songs could top the festive charts
Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence

Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys

He is a musician of wondrous oddity. He is on a perpetual quest to seek the lost tribes of the Welsh diaspora. Just don't ask Gruff Rhys if he's a national treasure...