Australian A-G: Zygier was not in contact with ASIO

Mark Dreyfus denies report that arrest of 'Prisoner X' connected to his dealings with the internal Australian intel agency.

February 22, 2013 07:33
1 minute read.
Zygier's gravestone

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


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Australian Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus denied on Friday that alleged Mossad agent Ben Zygier had been in contact with Australia’s internal intelligence agency, ASIO, before he was arrested in Israel in early 2010.

Dreyfus’s statement came in response to an Australian Broadcasting Corporation report last week that the dual Israeli-Australian citizen had been arrested for leaking Mossad secrets to the ASIO.

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“The attorney-general has been fully briefed by the director- general of ASIO on his agency’s knowledge of this case. The director-general’s account is entirely consistent with the recent statement issued by the Israeli prime minister,” the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Dreyfus’s spokeswoman as saying.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying that, contrary to reports, Zygier had no contact with Australian intelligence agencies.

“The Prime Minister’s Office would like to note that between the government of Israel and all its agencies, and the government of Australia and the Australian security agencies, there is excellent cooperation, full coordination and complete transparency in dealing with current issues,” the statement continued.

Reports in the foreign press have made a battery of claims about Zygier, a married father of two, including that he was about to or had already spilled secrets about Mossad operations to Australian intelligence, and that he had given up the identities of Mossad operatives to Dubai authorities following the killing there of senior Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in 2010.

The case of the Melbourne-born Zygier broke in Israel two weeks ago, when the Australian Broadcasting Corporation ran an investigative report alleging that Zygier was the so-called “Prisoner X,” an anonymous prisoner who killed himself in solitary confinement at Ayalon Prison in Ramle in 2010, with his existence unknown to the public.

The report alleged that Zygier, who went by the name Ben Alon in Israel, may have worked for the Mossad at some point before he was arrested in 2010.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Dreyfus’s spokeswoman as saying that Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr had ordered a review of the consular aspects of the case and that “the attorney-general has said that he has seen nothing at this stage to indicate that an additional review is needed.”

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

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