Israel publishes some details in Australian spy mystery

Wed Feb 13, 2013 4:17pm EST
 
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By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel broke its official silence on Wednesday over the reported suicide in jail of an Australian immigrant recruited to its spy service Mossad, giving limited details on a closely guarded case.

After appeals by local media chafing at Israeli censorship of a story broken by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), a district court near Tel Aviv allowed publication of six paragraphs of sanctioned text - a de-facto preliminary account by the state.

The text said that an Israeli with an unspecified dual nationality had been secretly imprisoned "out of security considerations", only to be found dead in his cell two years ago in what was eventually ruled a suicide.

The district court did not confirm or deny ABC's unsourced findings that the dead man was 34-year-old Ben Zygier, an Australian who moved to Israel and may have been jailed in isolation over suspected misconduct while spying for Mossad.

Social media records showed that Zygier, who died in late 2010 and was buried in Melbourne, had been married with children. His relatives have declined all comment on the case.

The Israeli district court said the unnamed detainee had been held under the supervision "of the most senior officials of the Justice Ministry" and that his family had been informed of his arrest immediately after it took place.

After citing other legal monitoring mechanisms in the case, the district court said: "Beyond this no details can be published about the affair, for reasons of national security."

"PRISONER X"   Continued...

 
A view of the exterior of Ayalon prison in Ramle near Tel Aviv February 13, 2013. An Australian man committed suicide in the high-security Israeli jail in 2010 after being held for months in great secrecy, Australia's ABC channel said on Tuesday, throwing new light on a case that has rattled Israel. The unsourced Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) story named the man, known previously only as "prisoner x", as Ben Zygier and added that it "understood" the 34-year-old from Melbourne had been previously recruited by the Israeli spy agency Mossad. Zygier was allegedly held in Ayalon Prison near Tel Aviv and was found hanged in his cell in December 2010. Funeral notices from Australia show that his body was flown back to Melbourne and that he was buried on Dec. 22.REUTERS/Nir Elias