Israel denies mystery 2010 detainee spied for Australia

Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:22pm EST
 
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By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel denied on Tuesday that an Australian immigrant who committed suicide in 2010 while jailed for security offences had spied for his native country.

The statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, which oversees Israel's intelligence services, was the first to confirm the affair concerned Ben Zygier, who was named in an Australian TV expose last week.

One of Zygier's lawyers has since linked him to Mossad, fanning speculation the 34-year-old Jewish man from Melbourne had been arrested and held in isolation on suspicion of betraying the Israeli spy agency's secrets - perhaps to Australia.

"Following many reports, the prime minister's office emphasizes that Mr. Zygier had no connection to the Australian security services and organizations," the statement said.

It said that Israel and Australia shared "excellent cooperation, full coordination and full transparency in dealing with the issues on the agenda".

Zygier was held under alias to stem serious harm to national interests, Israel says, but has not given any other details.

In a separate measure to douse speculation of foul play, an Israeli court allowed the publication of a judge's inquiry, completed two months ago, that said Zygier hanged himself in his cell.

The investigation showed the prisoner looped a wet sheet around his neck, tied it to the bars of a bathroom window in his cell and hanged himself, choking to death.   Continued...

 
The grave of Ben Zygier (R), the Australian whom local media have identified as the man who died in an Israeli prison in 2010 and who may have been recruited by Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, is pictured at a Jewish cemetery in Melbourne February 14, 2013. REUTERS/Brandon Malone