Israeli lawmakers to investigate Australian spy mystery

Sun Feb 17, 2013 3:29pm EST
 

By Dan Williams and Allyn Fisher-Ilan

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli lawmakers announced plans on Sunday to investigate the 2010 jailhouse death of a reported Australian immigrant recruit to the Mossad spy agency.

The statement by Parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee followed calls by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting to dim a growing media spotlight on the affair he saw as at risk of jeopardizing national security.

The case kept under wraps for two years then publicized by Australian television last Tuesday involves a 34-year-old immigrant, Ben Zygier, said to be a Mossad operative held on suspicion of security offences, who died of what has been labeled an apparent suicide behind bars.

In a terse communique, the legislative panel's subcommittee on intelligence said it has "decided to conduct an intensive examination of all aspects of the incident involving the prisoner found dead in his (prison) cell in December 2010."

While unlikely to have any immediate political consequences the investigation may lead to a wider inquiry with potentially broader repercussions.

Netanyahu's government has restricted reporting in Israel on the case, now overshadowing his victory in a national election held last month, using court gag orders, military censorship and direct requests to news editors.

Such steps have done little to douse demands for the authorities to come clean about the circumstances of Zygier's imprisonment and how he was able to kill himself in a highly-supervised isolation cell.

Without citing the case specifically, Netanyahu said on Sunday he "absolutely trusts" Israel's security services and what he described as the independent legal monitoring system under which they operated.   Continued...

 
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem February 17, 2013. Netanyahu appealed on Sunday for Israel's secret services to be spared public scrutiny, in an apparent bid to douse speculation that an Australian immigrant's 2010 jailhouse suicide was espionage-related and covered up. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun