Revealed: The identity of Israel's Prisoner X

The Australian Mossad agent's name was so secret that even his jailers didn't know it. Now the Israeli government is trying to cover up his true identity

Jerusalem

So secret was his identity – and indeed his crime – that even his jailors didn't know his name. And, when details of Israel's "Prisoner X" finally began to emerge, the Prime Minister's office rushed to hold a meeting with newspaper editors to ensure that details of the story did not get out.

Ever since the death of the top secret prisoner three years ago, there has been intense debate about his identity and what heinous crime he was jailed for, with few details ever being offered by the Israeli justice system.

Only now is the murky story of Prisoner X finally beginning to leak out, at least in part. According to an Australian television documentary, broadcast earlier this week, the man in question was an Australian Mossad agent named Ben Zygier, who also used the aliases Ben Alon and Ben Allen after moving to Israel.

The documentary, produced by ABC's Foreign Correspondent programme, says Zygier, 34, was married to an Israeli woman and had two children. It alleges he died after hanging himself in solitary confinement at the high-security Ayalon Prison, which is used to house Israel's worst offenders, including Yigal Amir, the right-wing fanatic who killed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.

But even if ABC has pinpointed the identity of Zygier, what he is supposed to have done remains a mystery. The left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, which wrote about the death of Prisoner X in 2010, reported that the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a gathering of top Israeli journalists in a bid to prevent details of the case emerging. A spokesman for Mr Netanyahu told The Independent Zygier's identity was not confirmed.

At the time of Zygier's suicide, there was rampant speculation over Prisoner X's identity, with a number of media outlets suggesting the man was probably of Iranian descent, and possibly a member of that country's elite Revolutionary Guard.

However, the ABC investigation suggests there is at least evidence that a body repatriated to Australia in 2010 was that of Zygier – the body was transported a week after Prisoner X's death and, ABC suggests, it came under the name of Ben Allen, the same name used on Zygier's second passport.

It appears that the authorities in Canberra are as much in the dark as everyone else. Speaking about the ABC documentary, the country's Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, said: "Those allegations certainly do trouble me. It's never been raised with me. I'm not reluctant to seek an explanation from the Israeli government about what happened to Mr Allen and about what their view of it is.

"The difficulty is I'm advised we've had no contact with his family [and] there's been no request for consular assistance during the period it's alleged he was in prison.

"Even if Prisoner X has now been identified, his crime, however, remains a mystery although it has been widely speculated that it would have involved treachery to warrant such extreme measures," Mr Carr said.

The meeting convened by Mr Netanyahu's office was a semi-official gathering of principle journalists, editors and media proprietors. Like the D-Notice system in the UK, the government can ask the media to withhold certain facts which, if made public, could constitute a risk to national security.

Several opposition members of the Israeli parliament's human rights organisations said the truth will eventually be disclosed. The leader of the social democratic Meretz party, Zahava Gal-On, told Haaretz that "the phenomenon of journalists volunteering to censor information at the request of the authorities is patently undemocratic. I had hoped that this would have ended decades ago. In a democracy, censorship is justified only out of security considerations, subject to the High Court, which ensures that it is justified and that there truly is immediate certainty of harming [national] security."

News
peoplePolice were acting on arrest warrant after actor fled US in 1977
News
Apple CEO Tim Cook
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ukip leader Nigel Farage has been fined £200 by the Electoral Commission
tvNot a nightmare, but the plot of a new TV mockumentary
Travel
<p><strong>15. Plas Teg Mansion, Flintshire</strong></p>
<p>Plas Teg, a Jacobean house near the the village of Pontblyddyn, Flintshire between Wrexham and Mold, is said to be one of Wales' most haunted buildings. One of its late owners was the infamous 'hanging' Judge Jeffries, who is thought to have held court in the home and had people convicted and hanged in the dining room. Reports of paranormal activity include heavy breathing in one bedroom and the spirit of a young girl appearing in the Blue Bedroom.</p>
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Mock the tweet: Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Frankie Boyle
peopleIt was a polite exchange of words, as you can imagine
Life and Style
fashion
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
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

Humanities and Economics Teacher - January 2015 - Malaysia

£18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

SEN Teaching Assistant needed for long term assignment

£45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experienc...

Primary Teachers Required in King's Lynn

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...

Primary Teachers needed in Ely

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain