Ben Zygier
Zygier's grave in Melbourne
Photo: EPA

Report: Australia seeks explanation over 'Prisoner X'

ABC network, which aired investigation on alleged Mossad agent who died in Israeli prison, says Israeli ambassador to Australia met with opposition official, said he would pass her concerns to 'relevant authorities' in Jerusalem

Israel's ambassador to Australia met Wednesday with opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop for a pre-arranged meeting, the ABC network reported.


Speaking before the meeting, Bishop said she would be raising the issue of alleged Mossad agent Ben Zygier, who had died in an Israeli prison, with the ambassador.


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She said she was concerned the Israeli government was censoring media reports.


"That's a matter that I'll raise directly with the Israeli embassy to get an understanding of the basis for it," she said.


"If there are security considerations I can understand it, but if it's just about embarrassing a government agency, then that certainly requires an explanation and I'll be seeking one."


Bishop's spokesman said the ambassador undertook to pass on her concerns to "relevant authorities" in Israel.


Watch full version of ABC investigation


ABC aired an investigation on Tuesday revealing that Ben Zygier, an Australian national who was held in complete isolation at the Ayalon Prison in Ramla, had died in a high-security cell in late 2010. According to official documents, he committed suicide.


The report claimed that in the years before his arrest the man had worked for the Mossad spy agency. The State, the report said, made efforts to keep the case – and the prisoner's existence – a secret.


The ABC inquiry noted that intelligence organizations in Australia were aware of the fact that local Jews were being recruited by the Mossad. According to estimates, the recruits change their Jewish names and issue new passports allowing them to enter Arab or Muslim countries like Iran.

Zygier in IDF uniform


Warren Reed, a former intelligence operative for Australia's overseas spy agency ASIS, told ABC's Foreign Correspondent that Australians were ideal recruits for Mossad.


"Australians abroad are generally seen to be fairly innocent," he said. "It's a clean country - it has a good image like New Zealand.


"There aren't many countries like that, so our nationality and anything connected with it can be very useful in intelligence work."


The inquiry also mentioned the exposure of the cell which assassinated Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in early 2010, which used Australian passports as well.


Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said he was concerned by the claims.


"Those allegations certainly do trouble me," Carr said. "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 (Zygier) 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."


Carr told ABC that in the absence of a complaint by Zygier's family, there was little for the Australian government to act upon.


Prisoner found hanged in his cell

The 28-minute program revealed that Ben Zygier, who was in his 30s when he died, used the name Ben Alon while living in Israel. He was married to an Israeli woman and had two small children.


According to the investigation, the prisoner was found hanged in a cell which was equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance systems installed to prevent suicide.


Since his death, the inmate's presence has been acknowledged by neither the jail system nor the government.

"המשפחה באבל". בן זיגייר כפי שצולם בחתונה

Zygier during his wedding


According to the ABC inquiry, the case is regarded as one of the most sensitive secrets of Israel's intelligence community, with the government going to extraordinary lengths to stifle media coverage and gag attempts by human rights organizations to expose the situation.


Zygier's relatives and acquaintances, who were asked to comment on the report, refused to cooperate as well.


Zygier 'disappeared' in early 2010

According to the report, the Prisoner X cell is a jail within a jail at Ayalon Prison in the city of Ramla. It was built for the assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. ABC said Zygier became its occupant in early 2010. His incarceration was so secret that it is claimed not even guards knew his identity.


Israeli media at the time reported that this Prisoner X received no visitors and lived hermetically sealed from the outside world.


ABC's Foreign Correspondent revealed that Zygier was 34 at the time of his death and had moved to Israel about 10 years earlier. He was married to an Israeli woman and had two small children.


Zygier's arrest and jailing in Israel remains a mystery, but ABC revealed that he was recruited by spy agency Mossad.


It is understood Zygier "disappeared" in early 2010, spending several months in the Prisoner X cell.


Zygier's apparent suicide in prison adds to the mystery. He was found hanged in a cell which was equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance systems installed to prevent suicide. Guards reportedly tried unsuccessfully to revive him.


His body was retrieved and flown to Melbourne. He was buried in Chevra Kadisha Jewish cemetery in the suburb of Springvale on December 22, seven days after his death.



פרסום ראשון: 02.13.13, 14:08
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