Ben Zygier at his wedding 370.
(photo credit: ABC Screenshot)
SYDNEY - Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr confirmed Wednesday that Ben Zygier, an Australian-Israeli
citizen who committed suicide in Israeli custody in 2010, had worked
for the Israeli government. The story of "Prisoner X", later named as Ben Zygier, originally from Melbourne, came to international attention after a report by Australian station ABC claimed that he had been recruited by Mossad and then held in isolation in Israeli detention until his death in 2010.
Australia had no evidence that Zygier had been involved in the assassination of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in
Dubai, Carr said.
The foreign minister also said Australia had found no evidence of the misuse of any of the
Australian passports taken out by the man, Ben Zygier, who had changed
his name several times and obtained new Australian passports each time.
Carr said the Zygier case raised unresolved questions about Australian
passports held by dual citizens who work for a foreign government, and
said Australia would lodge the strongest possible protest if it was
found that Israel had used an Australian passport for spying.
have our own sources. None of them have information at this time that
one of his passports was misused. But we are very alive to the
possibility," Carr said as he released a Department of Foreign Affairs
and Trade report into the case.
"Certainly we would regard it as
intolerable that any government would make use of Australian passports
for intelligence-gathering purposes," he told reporters in Sydney.
was arrested in February 2010; at around the same time, Canberra complained to Jerusalem after it emerged Australian passports had been used
in a mission to assassinate Mabhouh, which the
Gulf emirate blamed on Israel.
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judicial inquiry in Israel found Zygier, 34, hanged himself in December
2010 with a sheet tied to the bars over a window in the bathroom of his
heavily guarded cell.
Carr ordered an investigation into the
case last month, saying he would ask Israel's government for details of
how Zygier, a father of two, died in a supposedly suicide-proof cell.
Israel had not responded to requests for information, nor explained the
lack of a response. Australian officials and intelligence agencies
still did not know why Zygier was jailed and what charges he faced,
except that the charges carried a maximum penalty of up to 20 years'
Israel has said he was detained under an alias to avoid serious harm to national interests.
"There's a lot about this that is odd," Carr said.
inquiry found shortcomings in the handling of the case by Australian
authorities but noted that Zygier had received 50 visits from his family
and lawyer between the time of his arrest and death.
No requests for consular assistance had been received, the report found.
had initially said the Australian government had not been informed of
Zygier's incarceration. He later acknowledged Australia's chief
intelligence agency had been informed about the issue as early as
Australia's independent Inspector General of
Intelligence and Security said Wednesday there was no evidence the
spy agency had done anything wrong and there would be no formal inquiry