Senate video confirms Australia knew of Prisoner X

Australian FM says gov't was informed of the arrest of Australian-Israeli citizen 3 years ago, as well as of his death a day after it happened; stresses that Canberra was assured Zygier would be treated within his rights.

February 14, 2013 10:16
1 minute read.
Ben Zygier

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


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Australia was informed of the arrest of an Australian-Israeli citizen in 2010 through intelligence channels, an Australian senate video confirmed Thursday, marking the latest development in the 'Prisoner X' affair that has swept Israeli media in recent days.

Speaking during a senate meeting, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said that the intelligence sources provided Canberra with the name of the prisoner, who they said was being held in relation to serious offenses under national security legislation.

Following an explosive Australian ABC news report Tuesday that a dual Australian-Israeli citizen and Mossad agent committed suicide in an Israeli prison in 2010, the story has slowly unravelled. The Australian report identified the man as 34-year-old Ben Zygier from Melbourne. Following a media ban on the affair, Israel finally confirmed on Wednesday that a dual national did indeed take his own life while in custody.

Carr's public acknowledgement of Australia's knowledge of the affair further validates previous comments by his spokesman a day earlier that “some officers of the department were in fact aware of his detention.”

Carr also told officials at the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Legislation Committee that on December 16 2010, Canberra was informed of Zygier's death the previous day, and that the family of the deceased had been notified by Australian authorities.

The foreign minister stressed that his government had sought assurances from the Israeli authorities that the prisoner's rights would be respected, that his family would be notified, that he would be free to select his own legal representation and that he would not be mistreated. They were assured by Israeli officials that Zygier would be treated in accordance with his lawful rights as an Israeli citizen.

The Israeli Justice Ministry issued a statement Wednesday saying that the Prisons Service had held the dual-national and had, for security reasons, imprisoned him under a false name.

According to the statement, the family received immediate notification of his arrest, and he was represented throughout by three lawyers: Ro’i Belcher, Moshe Mazur and Boaz Ben-Tzur.

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