Did Aussies ‘burn’ Israel’s Prisoner X and was he also a British citizen?

Ben Zygier
As intriguing questions continue to mount about the case of Israel’s so-called ‘Prisoner X’, the flow of verifiable information from official channels in Australia and Israel has slowed to a trickle. However, two important analyses appeared over the weekend, which could potentially place the incarceration and subsequent death of Ben Zygier under new light. One claims that the Australian-born Israeli was a low-level Mossad operative who did not commit any serious crime —let along high treason. The other suggests that Zygier might have held British citizenship, in addition to being a dual Australian and Israeli citizen, and that the British government might have been privy to the information regarding his arrest and subsequent incarceration in Israel’s Ayalon prison. In an article for Ynet, the online outlet for Israel’s high-selling newspaper Yediot Ahronot, veteran security correspondent Ron Ben-Yishai posits that Zygier was simply a “support operative” for the Mossad, adding that he “did not commit treason”. Instead, says Ben-Yishai, Zygier was probably arrested by the Israelis because they suspected he might have given, or might consider giving, information about forged Australian passports to Canberra. The Mossad decided to detain him after he told them he had been contacted by Australian journalist Jason Koutskoukis in late 2009 and asked whether he was a Mossad operative. Koutsoukis was tipped-off by Australian counterintelligence, which suspected Zygier of supplying the Mossad with Australian passports in his possession. It was the stigma of being considered a traitor by his own people that drove Zygier —a passionate Zionist— to suicide, claims Ben-Yishai. In his article, he seems to reprimand Australian intelligence for “burning” an Australian citizen by leaking information about him to the Australian press, and then remaining conspicuously silent when Zygier ended up in solitary confinement inside a maximum-security Israeli prison. Another interesting piece, by Al-Monitor’s Laura Rozen, asks the question whether Zygier also held British citizenship at the time of his death. Rozen notes that Koutsoukis, the Australian journalist who contacted Zygier in late 2009, had been told by his Australian intelligence sources that Zygier “had also previously come on the radar of British intelligence for taking out a passport in a new name”. Does that mean, she asks, that the Mossad operative also held British citizenship? And if so, does this mean that the British government —or at least British intelligence— knew of Zygier’s fate following his detention in Israel? Could it be, therefore, that a third country, after Australia and Israel, may be turn out to be involved in this macabre episode before too long?

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