Court report: Zygier killed himself in prison cell

Netanyahu says Zygier had no connection to Australian agencies; adds Israel, Australia fully coordinated.

Ben Zygier at his wedding 370 (photo credit: ABC Screenshot)
Ben Zygier at his wedding 370
(photo credit: ABC Screenshot)
Alleged Mossad operative Ben Zygier hanged himself in his cell at Ayalon Prison in Ramle in 2010 by tying a wet sheet to the window bars of the shower and wrapping the other end around his neck, according to an investigation released for publication on Tuesday.
The December 2012 report by Judge Daphna Blatman Kedrai, president of the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, places blame directly on the Prisons Service, saying it failed in its responsibilities toward the 34-year-old Australian- Israeli citizen.
“At the conclusion of the investigation I found evidence to blame officials in the IPS [Israel Prisons Service] for causing the death of the deceased,” she said.
Blatman Kedrai said that the Prisons Service was given clear instructions to prevent Zygier from committing suicide, which “were known to the authorities responsible for supervision and oversight. These instructions were not carried out, and the window of opportunity for suicide that was created resulted... in the suicide of the deceased.”
The judge said that in light of the evidence, she did not see a reason to close the case, leaving the door open for possible prosecution of prison officials for negligence, even though the report rules out the possibility that someone else was involved in Zygier’s death.
Traces were found of a tranquilizer drug of some sort in Zygier’s bloodstream, but the medication played no role in his death, according to the report.
Prisons Service commander Aharon Franco responded on Tuesday that after he took up his post in April 2011, he was updated on the case of Zygier, his death and the reasons behind his isolation from the general inmate population.
Zygier’s cell “was not under observation or supervision to prevent suicide as we know [the procedures] today,” Franco said.
This would appear to indicate that officials were not instructed that he was a suicide risk, or that the most important aspect of Zygier’s detention was not that he be kept on constant suicide watch, but rather that he be kept isolated and unable to speak to other inmates due to security considerations.
Franco also said that Zygier met with his lawyers and family regularly, and was able to telephone his family quite often.
The loosening of the gag order on the court report only applies to eight of the document’s 28 pages. The other 20 pages remain stricken from publication.
According to the report, at 8:19 p.m. on December 15, 2010, Zygier was found dead inside his cell at Ayalon Prison.
He was hanging in his shower cell, with a sheet tied around his neck, and the other end tied to the bars of the shower, an area of the cell not covered by the surveillance cameras.
The next day, the state appointed the Lod-based Serious and International Crime Investigation Unit – one of the top units of the Israel Police – to look into the death, the report says.
On January 19, 2011, a representative of Zygier’s family met with court officials and asked for the family to able to take part in the proceedings.
Blatman Kedrai said she accepted the family’s request to allow their legal counsel to be present at hearings involving the case. On May 5, 2011, the judge decided that the family should be able to receive the investigative materials.
The case of the Melbourneborn Zygier broke in Israel last week, 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 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 early 2010.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying that, contrary to reports, Zygier did not have any connection to 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.