The curious case of Prisoner X: Australia knew about Ben Zygier's arrest in 2010

Published February 14th, 2013 - 08:32 GMT
Israel confirmed it jailed a foreigner in solitary confinement on security grounds who later committed suicide, with Australia admitting it knew one of its citizens had been detained. (AFP Photo/William West)
Israel confirmed it jailed a foreigner in solitary confinement on security grounds who later committed suicide, with Australia admitting it knew one of its citizens had been detained. (AFP Photo/William West)

Australia admitted on Thursday to knowing Australian-Israeli citizen codenamed Prisoner X was arrested in 2010 on serious security charges, AP reported.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr said intelligence sources had informed the Australian government of the arrest of Ben Zygier, also known as Ben Allen and Ben Alon in Israel.

"The Australian government was informed in February 2010 through intelligence channels that the Israeli authorities had detained a dual Australian-Israeli citizen, and they provided the name of the citizen, in relation to serious offences under Israeli national security legislation," Carr told a Senate committee.

Israel acknowledged it had detained Ben Zygier on Wednesday. Zygier was found dead in his cell a month after his arrest and detention at a maximum security prison, despite there being high-tech surveillance systems in place intended to prevent suicide.

The affair sheds new light on the apparently strained relations between Australia and Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, Mossad.
Australia reportedly sought assurances Zygier would have his legal rights respected and would not be mistreated.

"The Israeli government further advised the Australian government that the individual would be treated in accordance with his lawful rights as an Israeli citizen," Carr said.

Carr told an ABC program that aired on Tuesday that he only became aware of Zygier’s arrest after his death. He backtracked on Wednesday, ordering his department to review its handling of the case.

In an unusual twist to the case, Israeli TV reported Zygier had worked for Israel’s Justice Minister, Yaakov Neeman’s law firm, Herzog, Fox & Neeman.

According to Israeli TV, Zygier was interrogated by Australian intelligence officers in 2009 abour trips to Iran, Syria and Lebanon.


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