Australian FM: Zygier worked for Israel

Bob Carr says no information at this time that Zygier misused Australian passport, but doesn't rule out possibility.

Ben Zygier at his wedding 370 (photo credit: ABC Screenshot)
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.
However, 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.
"We 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.
Zygier 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.
Click here for full JPost coverage of this story
A 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.
Carr said 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' prison.
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.
Carr's 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.
Carr 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 February 2010.
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 its role.