Israel’s ‘Prisoner X’ identified as Australian Mossad agent

Ben Zygier
In late 2010, an unnamed man known in Israel as ‘Prisoner X’ allegedly hanged himself while being held at a maximum-security prison near Tel Aviv. He committed suicide despite being under constant surveillance inside a facility originally built for the man who assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. So secret was the identity of the mysterious prisoner that, it was claimed, not even his guards knew his identity. Some in Israel speculated at the time that it might have been an abducted Iranian general. On Tuesday, however, an investigative Australian television program identified the dead man as an Australian citizen who had allegedly been recruited by the Mossad, Israel’s covert-action agency. ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program identified ‘Prisoner X’ as Ben Zygier, an Australian father of two, who moved to Israel in 2000 at the age of 24. The program said Zygier, who in Israel went by the name Ben Alon, was arrested by Israeli authorities in 2010 for unknown reasons. There is intense speculation, however, that Zygier’s secretive incarceration might be connected with an extremely serious security case, possibly involving high treason against the state of Israel. Despite the allegation by ABC of Zygier’s Mossad connection, Israeli news outlets are subjected to an active court order authorizing Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service to prohibit any media discussion on the subject. Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported on Tuesday that, hours after ABC’s revelation of Zygier’s identity, Israeli news outlets received telephone calls from the Office of the Israeli Prime Minister. The caller asked for “an emergency meeting” with news  editors to discuss “cooperat[ing] with the government and withhold[ing] publication of information pertaining to an incident that is very embarrassing to a certain government agency”. It is worth noting that, according to ABC, Zygier owned an Australian passport and was a dual Israeli-Australian national. In accordance with international conventions, Israel should have notified the Australian government that its citizen had been imprisoned in an Israeli jail. However, Australian officials told ABC that they were kept in the dark about Zygier’s imprisonment until after his death. But the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bob Carr, told ABC on Tuesday that the Australian government had to receive a complaint from Zygier’s family before it could issue a formal protest in Tel Aviv. So far, however, the dead man’s family in Australia remains silent on the incident.

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