Australia asks Israel for answers on Prisoner X death

Australian FM Bob Carr says his country will compile a report of its own on the arrest and death of Ben Zygier; Hanegbi: Foreign Affairs and Defense C'tee was not briefed on affair; Ariel calls for gov't inquiry c'tee into case.

February 17, 2013 09:20
3 minute read.
Ben Zygier

Ben Zygier 370. (photo credit: Screen shot ABC News)


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Australia will compile its own report on the arrest and death of Ben Zygier and ask Israel to contribute to it, AAP cited Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr as saying.

"We want to give [Israel] an opportunity to submit to us an explanation of how this tragic death came about," Carr told reporters.

Click here for full JPost coverage of this story

Carr ordered the review of the case to "satisfy" himself that the Australian government is doing enough, after it has been criticized for its handling of the case.

On Sunday morning, Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi told Israel Radio that the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee was not briefed on the Prisoner X case by any defense officials

Despite that, Hanegbi, who headed the committee at the time, said he is convinced that Israel did nothing that characterizes totalitarian countries to Zygier.

Bayit Yehudi MK Uri Ariel demanded on Sunday that a government inquiry committee investigated Israel's handling of the Prisoner X affair.

"There was a slip here," Ariel, who is the former head of the State Control Committee, told Army Radio. "We don't understand what happened here and therefore the Knesset needs to have its say and form a government inquiry committee," he added.

Ariel asked temporary Knesset Speaker Binyamin Ben-Eliezer to head the committee.

On Saturday, the Israeli Justice Ministry said it is considering the publication of the report examining the death of Ben Zygier, which ruled that the so-called Prisoner X committed suicide in his cell at Ayalon Prison in December 2010.

An investigation carried out by Judge Daphna Blatman Kedrai, president of the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, concluded a month and a half ago that Zygier, 34, died of asphyxiation by hanging.

A spokesman for the Justice Ministry said that the ministry was checking ways in which to make the findings of the report public, possibly as soon as this week.

The life-and-death saga of Zygier, identified in foreign reports as a one-time Mossad employee who was jailed in early 2010 for unspecified crimes associated with his service in the agency, continues to grip the Israeli media.

Speaking on Channel 2’s Meet the Press on Saturday night, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon hinted that Zygier, a dual Australian- Israeli national, was jailed for offenses that threatened the security of the State of Israel.

“We are a special country in terms of our security situation, and because of security needs and sometimes even to save lives we must take extreme measures,” Ya’alon said. “We should assume that if he got to this point, there was information that necessitated it.”

He defended the government’s actions, saying that “we are not a dark dictatorship like Stalin’s Soviet Union or Argentina,” and that “the people in Israel who needed to know about this knew.

“If we want in an extreme case to put someone in prison under a fake name, it’s done with the supervision of the judiciary, with the family and the executive branch knowing,” Ya’alon said.

He also said that every suicide in Israel is investigated, including Zygier’s.

On Friday, Reuters published the results of a forensic report it commissioned that concluded that Zygier and a suspect in the assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud al- Mabhouh in Dubai in January 2010 were not the same man.

The report followed an article in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida on Thursday that quoted anonymous Western sources who said Zygier was part of the team that killed Mahbouh and that he later gave Dubai information on the identities of the operatives who took part in the hit.

The Reuters examination narrowed the passport photos that the Dubai police released of suspects in Mahbouh’s killing down to one forged picture from an Australian passport with the name Joshua Daniel Bruce that it determined was the picture most likely to be Zygier in disguise. The examination determined that the man was not Zygier.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.

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