'Prisoner X likely did more than leak Mossad info'

Former Australian FM casts doubt over reports that Zygier's crime was sharing information with Australian spy agency.

February 19, 2013 09:30
2 minute read.
Zygier's gravestone

Zygier's gravestone. (photo credit: REUTERS/Brandon Malone)


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Australia's former foreign minister Alexander Downer on Tuesday cast doubt over reports that the reason behind 'Prisoner X's' incarceration in Israeli prison was leaking Mossad information to the Australian spy agency.

"I suspect that's not the reason he [Ben Zygier] ended up in jail," the Australian Associated Press quoted Downer as telling ABC radio. "I suspect it was something more serious than just sharing information with ASIO [Australian Security Intelligence Organization]."

The Australian Broadcasting Corp.'s "Foreign Correspondent" reported Monday that Zygier met with the ASIO, and provided details about Israel's Mossad secret service operations, including a top-secret mission in Italy that had taken years to plan.

Zygier, a Melbourne native, visited Australia often with his wife and children, and enrolled in a master's in business administration program at Montash University in that city. It was during one of those visits that he had contact with Australian intelligence, "Foreign Correspondent" reported, and also applied for a visa to Italy.

Also Tuesday, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry released a statement explaining that their previous silence on the affair had been out of respect for the Zygier family.

The statement acknowledged that the Israeli Parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee for Intelligence and the Israeli State Attorney's office and part of the Ministry of Justice will be conducting investigations surrounding Zygier's death.

"We also welcome the inquiries being undertaken by Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the fact that he has invited the Israeli authorities to have an input into those inquiries," Executive Council President Dr Danny Lamm said in the written statement.

"We look forward to the official inquiries publishing concrete information about the circumstances surrounding the death of Ben Zygier in the hope that it will put further rumor and speculation to rest and bring some comfort to his still-grieving family and friends," Dr Lamm said.

Zygier, who was known as Prisoner X as well as Ben Alon, was the subject of an expose by "Foreign Correspondent" that reported February 12 that he was jailed in early 2010 and apparently committed suicide in the high-security Ayalon Prison near Tel Aviv. The report suggested that he worked with the Mossad.

Following the report, internal investigations on his case were initiated in Israel and Australia.

Zygier was one of three Australian Jews who changed their names several times, receiving new passports for travel in the Middle East and Europe allegedly for their work for the Mossad, according to the news program. He was buried in Melbourne, where he attended day school.

JTA contributed to this report

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