Israel admits for the first time to having arrested him
Israel on Thursday admitted that it had jailed ‘Prisoner X’, who later committed suicide, as Australia announced a review into its handling of the case.
The Israeli Justice Ministry said the man was held for security reasons and that his death in late 2010 was ruled as a suicide.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) had aired an investigative report on Tuesday revealing the identity of the man as Ben Zygier, an Australian national and Mossad agent, who was held in complete isolation at the Ayalon Prison in Ramla.
Zygier was seen as a mysterious figure known as ‘Prisoner X’ and was until this week one of Israel’s most sensitive national security secrets.
A lawyer who moved from Melbourne to Israel in 2000, Zygier had married an Israeli and had two children, said the ABC report.
Seven days after he was found hanged in his cell, aged 34, his body was flown to Melbourne, where he was buried in a Jewish cemetery, it said.
The statement cleared for publication by Israel, that went to extreme lengths to cover up the issue till now, gives limited details.
“For security reasons, the prisoner was held under a pseudonym, but his family was notified of the arrest immediately,” said the statement.
“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”, it said.
The Ministry also emphasised that the prisoner’s legal rights were observed at all times, according to the law.
The Justice Ministry’s statement said six weeks ago, the investigation had ruled the prisoner’s death a suicide; however, the judge recommended that the State pursue a negligence investigation in the matter.
“National security prevents the release of any other details in this case,” the statement added.
On Wednesday night, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced a review of the case.
Mr. Carr said Australian officials sought assurances that the prisoner’s legal rights would be respected, that he had legal representation, that his family had been informed, and that he was not being mistreated.
An interim report in Australia on Zygier case has been submitted by Peter Varghese, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), confirming that Australian Intelligence agencies did inform the department about his detention at a prison in Tel Aviv.
DFAT officials did know about Zygier detention. It was not clear if the department informed the then Foreign Minister Stephen Smith.