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Attorney says he met 'Prisoner X' day before his death

February 14, 2013 11:23

Leading criminal attorney Avigdor Feldman tells Channel 10 that prisoner was charged with "grave crimes" and that negotiations for a plea bargain were ongoing; says "there was no heart string" interrogators didn't pull.

The Ayalon Prison in Ramle

Ayalon prison 370. (photo credit:Reuters)

JERUSALEM/CANBERRA - The Australian immigrant reported to have been recruited by the Mossad and held in solitary confinement in an Israeli jail where he committed suicide was charged with grave crimes before his death, one of his lawyers said on Thursday.

Leading criminal attorney Avigdor Feldman said he met the man dubbed "Prisoner X" a day before his death.

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The closely guarded case has raised questions in Australia and Israel about the suspected use by the Mossad of dual Australian-Israeli nationals and the circumstances behind the 2010 detention and death of 34-year-old Ben Zygier.

"I met with a balanced person, given the tragic outcome, who was rationally weighing his legal options," Feldman told Channel 10 Television.

Israel on Wednesday broke its silence over an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) report which said that Zygier, who immigrated to Israel, was jailed in isolation over suspected misconduct while spying for the Mossad.

Partially lifting a gag order on the case, an Israeli court said a dual-nationality citizen had been imprisoned secretly under a false name for "security reasons", and found dead in his cell in what was eventually ruled a suicide.

Feldman said that Zygier was charged with "grave crimes" and that there were ongoing negotiations for a plea bargain. The attorney did not elaborate on the allegations, which he said Zygier denied. Reporting in Israel on the case has been subject to strict government censorship.

"His interrogators told him he could expect lengthy jail time and be ostracized from his family and the Jewish community," said Feldman, who once represented former president Moshe Katsav in his rape trial. "There was no heart string they did not pull, and I suppose that ultimately brought about the tragic end."

Also Thursday, Australia confirmed that the government was informed of Zygier's arrest in 2010 through intelligence channels.

Ben Hartman and staff contributed to this report
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