1976 – 2010: The life and death of Ben Zygier - Israel News, Ynetnews

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The man behind the letter X Photo: AFP
The man behind the letter X Photo: AFP

1976 – 2010: The life and death of Ben Zygier

From Melbourne to the kibbutz and according to foreign media, to Lebanon, Syria and Iran. The elusive life story of 'Prisoner X'

Published: 02.14.13, 14:20 / Israel News

Ben Zygier, Ben Allen, Ben Alon, Benjamin Burrows- these are the names allegedly used by "Prisoner X", a dual Israeli-Australian national, whose arrest is no less mysterious than the reported circumstances of his death two years ago in the most secure cell in Israel's most secure jail.


His background, as reported by ABC and foreign media, slightly lifts the veil of secrecy from over this man's life.


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9.12.1976 – "X" was born in Melbourne to a prominent Jewish family, well known in the local Jewish community. His father, Geoffrey Zygier, was the executive director for B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission and active in additional Jewish organizations.


His mother, Louise Zygier, worked at Melbourne’s Monash University and raised funds for the local JCC. Both quit their respective jobs after learning about their son's death in 2010.



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WATCH: Full ABC report

80s-90s – Joins the Hashomer Hatzair Youth Movement and completes his law studies in Australia.


1994 – Makes Aliyah as part of Hashomer Hatzair and volunteers at Kibbutz Gazit, in the Jezreel Valley together with a group of Australian Jews.


"I remember him from his army service days. From what I recall, he was 'poisoned' (slang for highly- motivated) about the army - he wanted to serve in a combat unit. After his discharge, he left the kibbutz, but would occasionally return to visit," a kibbutz friends recalled.


The plot thickens

Early 2000s: Recruited into the Mossad, has four different Australian passports issued under a new name each time, (Australia legally allows its citizens to change their names on passports on a yearly basis).


2003-2004 – Works at the prestigious Israeli law firm of Herzog Fox & Neeman.


2006 – Weds a young Israeli woman and has two children.



2009 – Returns to Australia to complete his MBA in Melbourne.


"I remember drinking with Ben one night when he recounted his famous story about taking a bullet in the posterior during his military service," recalls a friend who interned with Zygier after their studies.


According to foreign reports, Zygier also reportedly made Iranian and Saudian friends during this period.


2010 Questioned by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) in relation to the use of the different passports and aliases. According to foreign sources, he was confronted with questions regarding activity in Lebanon and Iran and with allegations that he was spying for Israel.


"Who the f*** are you?" an enraged Zygier asked reporter, Jason Koutsoukis, who conducted an investigation regarding Aussie nationals enlisted to Israel intelligence services at the time. "What is this total bulls*** you are telling me?" he responded to the allegations, openly upset by the journalist's skepticism regarding his denial.


Some time later he was arrested and incarcerated under a false alias in the secluded Wing 15 of the Ayalon Prison.


כלא איילון. התא השמור במדינה (צילום: רויטרס)

Ayalon Prison (Photo: Reuters) 


2.24.2010 – Australian authorities informed of Zygier's arrest. However, the country's Tel Aviv embassy claims no such information was passed on to them.


March 2010 – Prominent Israeli lawyer Avigdor Feldman visits Zygier in jail. "When I saw him, there were no signs that he was going to commit suicide. He sounded rational and weighed legal options that I cannot disclose," Feldman told Ynet and refused detailing the circumstances of the meeting.



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תמונה חדשה

הסרטון נשלח לחברך


הטמעת הסרטון באתר שלך

 קוד להטמעה:

Aussie FM comments (Video: Reuters)

12.15.2010 – Hangs himself in hiscell and is laid to rest a week later in a Melbourne, Jewish cemetery.


2011 – The Israeli Association for Civil Rights Chief Legal Counsel Attorney Dan Yakir told Ynet that the group filed a motion to lift the gag order in 2011, following rumors of "Prisoner X's" death.


"Following classified information produced in court, we were advised to strike the appeal. Following this advice, and in order to avoid a detrimental legal ruling, we agreed."


February 2013 – The Australian ABC network published a detailed investigation about the story, leading the Israeli government to admit – for the first time – that a Prisoner X existed, that he was a dual citizen, who, for security reasons, was held in custody under an alias - which is where he found his lonely and now not-so-anonymous death.



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