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article imageIsrael admits jailing mystery foreigner known as Prisoner X

By Paris Franz     Feb 14, 2013 in World
Israel has confirmed it imprisoned the Australian-Israeli man known as Prisoner X in the maximum security Ayalon prison and that he died in custody.
The Israeli justice ministry did not name the man, but he has been identified by Australian media as Ben Zygier. The ministry confirmed he killed himself inside his cell in 2010, the BBC reports.
The admission comes amid an escalating international row with Australia. At the time of his death, Zygier was under investigation by Australia’s spy agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), which suspected him of spying for Israel.
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr told a parliamentary committee that Canberra had been informed of Zygier’s detention in February 2010. The reasons for his detention remain vague, however. According to the BBC, he was detained “in relation to serious offences under Israeli national security legislation.”
The story began to emerge before his detention, when journalist Jason Koutsoukis confronted Zygier with allegations that he was working for Israel’s foreign intelligence agency Mossad.
“He was at first angry, then exasperated that I wouldn’t accept his denials at what I was putting to him,” Koutsoukis told the Sydney Morning Herald. “He told me he was like any other Australian who had made aliyah and was trying to make a life in Israel.”
Zygier was one of at least three dual Australian-Israeli citizens under investigation by ASIO. Each of the men had travelled back to Australia separately to change their names and obtain a new passport, allowing them entry to Iran, Syria and Lebanon, countries that do no allow entry to Israelis.
The assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in January 2010 in Dubai is believed to have been carried out by Mossad using passports obtained from Australia and Europe. However, the Sydney Morning Herald reports the ASIO investigation into Zygier and two other men began at least six months before this. There is no suggestion that the Australian names linked to al-Mabhouh's assassination were connected to Zygier or the other men being investigated by ASIO.
The revelations have raised further questions about how much the Australian government knew about the conditions under which Zygier was being held, and how he hanged himself in a cell that was meant to be suicide-proof.
The case also suggests Israel has not stuck to its 2006 promise that it no longer held prisoners in secret outside of international legal norms. The Guardian reports Zygier was held in conditions of complete isolation and without access to a lawyer, in what was, in effect, a “secret prison” within a prison. Even his guards did not know who their prisoner was.
More about prisoner x, Mossad, Ben Zygier, ASIO
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