Court document reveals existence of 2nd ‘Prisoner X’

Zygier lawyer: Case of Prisoner No. 2 was even more sensational; MKs calling for probe: We are on the fast track to becoming a dark police state.

Ayalon prison 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
Ayalon prison 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
A second anonymous security prisoner was held secretly at the Ayalon Prison at the same time that former Mossad employee Ben Zygier took his own life in the facility’s high-security cell 15, according to court documents cleared for publication on Tuesday.
The protocol of an October 2011 hearing in the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court examining the death of Zygier – whom Israeli media have nicknamed “Prisoner X” – reads: “It is worth noting that there are specific, detailed guidelines that were used for the previous resident of Block 15 [Yitzhak Rabin assassin Yigal Amir] and for a separate prisoner jailed in Block 13 [a security cell].”
According to the protocol, the latter prisoner’s attributes “more closely resemble those of the one in cell 15 [Zygier].”
No further details about the man’s identity or his alleged crimes were released for publication on Tuesday.
Avigdor Feldman, one of Zygier’s lawyers before his death, confirmed the existence of the other undisclosed prisoner at Ayalon during a Tuesday interview with the 103 FM radio station.
Feldman said the second such prisoner was there for offenses that were much more “sensationalist and incredible” than the allegations leveled at Zygier.
“These crimes were much more severe. Without getting into details, they were more sensational, much more amazing and fascinating,” he said.
He added that the case of the other prisoner “indicates much more severe failures in the security system than those involved in the case of Ben Zygier.”
Calling the second “Prisoner X” case “a terrible security breach,” Feldman stated that “when I heard the case, as an Israeli citizen, I was in shock.”
The documents released Tuesday revealed that the camera pointing toward the cell’s bathroom was not functioning on the day of Zygier’s death.
Other revelations in the documents are similar to ones the court cleared in April, which detailed the testimony from Prisons Service officials who were in charge of guarding Zygier up until he hanged himself in the bathroom of his cell on December 15, 2010.
The documents showed that Prisons Service psychiatrists had ruled that Zygier was a prisoner in need of supervision level B, requiring that someone check up on him every 30 minutes, and that during his time in Ayalon he received 57 visits from a social worker.
In the document, the officers interviewed stated that they were short on staff, with only four people instead of the usual five manning the operations room, which surveys footage from 330 cameras. Footage from Zygier’s cell was supposed to reach both that room and a separate room, the control room, but at the time, only the latter was receiving video from Zygier’s cameras. The report states that “M.A.,” an officer who was in charge of the control room, left that room shortly before Zygier committed suicide, and was in the operations room when it happened.
The document says M.A. left his logbook back in the control room, and did not fill it in during the time he was absent.
The document adds that while the operations room did include footage from the cameras in Zygier’s room, camera 116, which covered the center of his cell and part of his bathroom, was not connected to the screens in the operations room – a fact that the officers on duty beforehand had known.
In addition, it emerged that the infrared camera meant to turn on when the cell’s lights were shut off provided “zero visibility,” that at least one other camera in the cell was not working, and that employees had repeatedly asked their supervisors to repair the cameras – a request that was ignored.
The newly released documents state that the cameras in Cell 13 had been repaired recently, however.
The documents released in April also said that Zygier was crying and distraught following a visit from his wife and daughter just hours before he killed himself.
Tuesday’s documents confirmed this, stating that Zygier’s mother had sent an email from Australia to one of his attorneys on the day of the suicide, in which she wrote that she feared he could be suicidal because his wife had told him she was cutting off their relationship.
The Justice Ministry stated in April that it would not bring criminal charges against any of the Prisons Service personnel or others who had responsibility for Zygier’s safety. The matter now rests with the Prisons Service, which is carrying out disciplinary actions against the employees involved in the case.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal- On recalled that when she had brought up Zygier in a parliamentary session, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch had told her that “there are no anonymous prisoners in Israel.”
“The revelation that there is another secret prisoner is serious and worrying,” Gal- On wrote on Facebook. “In a democracy, there cannot be secret prisoners, with no outside supervision of where and under what conditions they are held.”
Even more severe than that, she added, “in a democracy, ministers do not lie to the Knesset and the public.”
Later Tuesday, in the plenum, Gal-On called Aharonovitch’s behavior “befitting of a totalitarian state.”
MK Nachman Shai (Labor) called for the state comptroller to investigate the affair, which he said raised questions that had yet to be answered.
“The thought that additional prisoners are being held in such conditions is frightening and disturbing. Only the state comptroller has the tools to investigate,” he stated.
According to MK Esawi Frej (Meretz), “we are on the fast track to becoming a dark police state.”