Israeli lawyer sheds some light on 'Prisoner X' mystery
Partially lifting a gag order on the case, an Israeli court said a dual-nationality citizen had been imprisoned secretly under a false name for 'security reasons,' and found dead in his cell in what was ruled a suicide.
JERUSALEM; and CANBERR
An Australian immigrant, reported to have been recruited by¬†Israel's¬†Mossad¬†spy agency, was charged with grave crimes before he committed suicide in an Israeli jail, one of his lawyers said on Thursday.
The closely guarded case has raised questions in¬†Australia¬†and¬†Israel¬†about the suspected use by the¬†Mossad¬†of dual Australian-Israeli nationals and the circumstances behind the 2010 detention and death of 34-year-old¬†Ben Zygier.
Israel¬†on Wednesday broke its silence over an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) report which said that Zygier, who moved to¬†Israel, was jailed in isolation over suspected misconduct while spying for the¬†Mossad.
Partially lifting a gag order on the case, an¬†Israeli court¬†said a dual-nationality citizen had been imprisoned secretly under a false name for "security reasons", and found dead in his cell in what was eventually ruled a suicide.
Israeli criminal attorney¬†Avigdor Feldman¬†said he met with the man, dubbed "Prisoner¬†X", a day before his death.
"I met with a balanced person, given the tragic outcome, who was rationally weighing his legal options," Feldman told Channel 10 Television.
He said the detainee was charged with "grave crimes" and that there were ongoing negotiations for a plea bargain. The attorney did not elaborate on the allegations, which he said the¬†prisoner¬†denied. Reporting in¬†Israel¬†on the case is still subject to strict government censorship.
The Kuwaiti newspaper¬†Al Jarida¬†quoted on Thursday unidentified Western sources as saying Zygier took part in the killing by a¬†Mossad¬†hit-team of¬†Hamas¬†operative Mahmoud al-Mahbouh in¬†Dubai¬†in 2010.
Offering a different version,¬†Australia's Fairfax Media said Australian security officials suspected Zygier may have been about to disclose¬†Israeli intelligence¬†operations, including the use of fraudulent Australian passports, either to the Canberra government or to the media before his arrest.
"His interrogators told him he could expect lengthy jail- time and be ostracized from his family and the Jewish community," Feldman said. "There was no heart string they did not pull, and I suppose that ultimately brought about the tragic end."
In a separate interview Feldman appeared to inadvertently confirm the man was a¬†Mossad¬†spy.
"The¬†Mossad¬†liaison I was in touch with informed me that, unfortunately, my client was no longer alive," Feldman told Kol Barama Radio.¬†Israel¬†has neither denied nor confirmed that "Prisoner¬†X" was a¬†Mossad¬†officer.
The jailhouse suicide of Zygier has focused attention on the agency's recruitment of foreign-born Jews who could spy under cover of their native passports.
Australian media have reported that Zygier had been one of at least three Australian-Israeli dual nationals under investigation by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation over suspicions of espionage for¬†Israel.
Australia¬†complained to¬†Israel¬†in 2010 after¬†Dubai¬†said forged Australian passports were used by the¬†Mossad¬†squad. Mahbouh's killers, authorities in the¬†emirate¬†said, also had also had British, Irish, French and German passports.
Mossad¬†is widely reputed to have stepped up its shadow war in recent years against Iran's nuclear programme,¬†Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas, suspected nuclear procurement by¬†Syriaand arms smuggling to Palestinians through¬†Dubai,¬†Sudan¬†and¬†Egypt.
In an apparent reversal from previous statements, Australian Foreign minister Bob Carr said on Thursday his ministry had known about Zygier's jailing in¬†Israel¬†as early as February 2010. On Wednesday he said Australian diplomats in¬†Israel¬†only found out about the detention after his death in custody later that year.
Israel's Justice Ministry¬†said a court has ordered an inquiry into possible negligence in Zygier's death.
Zygier, who came from a prominent Jewish family in¬†Australia¬†and was also known as¬†Ben Alonand¬†Ben Allen, was buried in¬†Melbourne. He had been married with two young children. His relatives have declined all comment on the case.