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Posted: February 14th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: CRIME!, News, REBLOG! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on UPDATED! PRISONER X


A suicide …or was it a murder? It was certainly never officially reported! UPDATE! 16 February 2013: Claims that suspected Australian Mossad operative Ben Zygier was secretly jailed before his death in prison have brought to a head years of resentment at the way Israel’s security services use court gag orders to suppress sensitive information from the media.

As the world now knows, the Prisoner X case was the subject of a court order issued in 2010 that was extreme. There was to be no public discussion, mention or hint of ‘Prisoner X’, ‘Mister X’, ‘cell number 15 in Ayalon Prison’, the conditions there or ‘anything about that cell’. The judge also ruled that any mention or hint of the very existence of the gag order was an offence.

My sources told me that it was “all hands on deck” for Mossad and Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet. Their intelligence had told them that the mainstream Israeli media would most likely grudgingly abide by the court gag order, and that the main task for censors would be to “pull down” the work of bloggers who would be posting links to our story.

It did not work out quite like that.

Minutes before the program aired in Australia on Tuesday night, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper defied authorities by posting the Foreign Correspondent promo on its website. The prime minister’s office reacted immediately ::::

UPDATE Cont’d ::

On the instructions of PM Benjamin Netanyahu, the editors in chief and owners of Israel’s main media outlets were summoned. It was now an hour after the Foreign Correspondent story had gone to air in Australia.

The meeting was addressed by the head of Mossad, Tamir Pardo. Israel’s chief censor was also present. The Mossad chief passionately urged media outlets not to report details of the Foreign Correspondent program, saying it would deeply embarrass the security services. He told the editors they should heed his advice in the interests of national security.

An editor who was present has told me that media representatives “turned” on the Mossad chief. They complained that for too long gag orders had frustrated the healthy functioning of the press, and a review was needed to take account of changes in the media landscape. One editor accused the Mossad chief of “treating the Israeli public like fools”.

The onslaught continued soon after in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. The justice minister was quizzed about the Foreign Correspondent claims, and the issue of the gag order was debated once again.

In a digital age, authorities could not toss a censorship blanket over Israel and quarantine it from the rest of the world. The security services also knew that Israelis would be able to watch the Foreign Correspondent program from its website.

By Wednesday morning the Israeli government had agreed to allow the gag order to be revised. A legal team representing Israel’s top media organisations applied to Judge Tal Avraham to allow the Foreign Correspondent story to be reported in local news outlets.

The new order made clear there are to be no follow up investigations in Israel by local journalists. Specifically, journalists are not to approach the wife of Mr Zygier nor his two daughters.

Over the past three days I’ve spoken to probably 30 journalists in Israel. All saw my Foreign Correspondent story within hours of it airing in Australia, and long before the revised court order was passed.

ORIGINAL :: The Justice Department is now looking at reforming the way court orders are applied and administered, including allowing the media to have representation at hearings, and giving the security services the authority to withdraw orders that no longer have relevance.

Israeli intelligence services were aware that our Foreign Correspondent story was airing last Tuesday. The promo was going viral on social media, and airing on ABC TV in Australia. A press release had gone out the previous week, mentioning “Prisoner X”. An Israeli court slapped a gag order barring journalists from even mentioning  the gag order. And a code name to rival even Mr Bond’s 007: Prisoner X Over the past few years, there have been a bunch of theories on WHO Prisoner X might be; Richard Silvestein theorised that Prisoner X was Ali Reza Asgari, a former Iranian General. After theories had been dispelled – Israel confirming the identity of Prisoner X – the conspiracy theorists seem to have simply ramped up the juice. Everyone loves a spy story – ask ASIO, MI5 or CIA when the best recruitments happen – I’m now officially in love with Trevor Borman from our very own ABC, breaking this story took a bunch of hard digging. This is going to be such a good spy story, when and if the entire story ever surfaces ::::

Prisoner X Conspiracy Theories Continue

Ben Zygier, 34, came from a well respected Melbourne Jewish family, he studied law at the University of Melbourne. Zygier found a passion for Israel early, spending the last 10 years of his life as a dual Australian/Israeli citizen, he’d served in the Israeli military. Zygier apparently had a much shadier side however, he was also known by the names Ben Alon and Ben Allen, and he may have been recruited by Israels’ spy agency Mossad.


Earlier this week the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program revealed the likely identity of Prisoner X as Zygier, who was found dead in a supposedly suicide-proof cell in a super-secret prison near Tel Aviv in late 2010. If you’ve missed the news – your almost aloneThe New York Times reported: The story had all the trappings of a spy thriller: an anonymous prisoner linked to Israel’s secret service, Mossad, isolated in a top-security wing originally built for the assassin of a prime minister.

Pressure from Australian media – Foreign Correspondent – has forced Israel  to break its silence on the Prisoner X case, confirming overnight that  Prisoner X was indeed Zygier …that he did commit suicide while in custody.   The airing of the ABC television program has also forced Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr to confirm that the Federal Government knew of the imprisonment of Australian man Ben Zygier as early as February 2010 ::::

The program has flashed around the world, here in Australia, The Financial Reviews‘ Patric Durkin adding a personal touch to the story, writing: The case of Prisoner X is said to have been one of the most sensitive in Israel’s intelligence community, with all details kept secret. Revelations that Israel’s infamous Prisoner X was Melbourne man Ben Zygier has sent a shock wave through my group of lawyer friends, who all completed our articles with Ben at the same law firm in 2001.

Rounding of international coverage, The Guardian writes: The revelation of the existence of a detention facility known as Camp 1391 in 2003, Israel said three years later that it no longer held prisoners in secret outside of international legal norms. The Zygier case suggests the Israeli government has not stuck to that promise. An Israeli court ruled at the time that the facility – run by Israel’s domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet, used to house Palestinian prisoners with no access to their families and designated a military secret – held its inmates in substandard conditions.

When the UN Committee Against Torture reported on conditions in Israeli jails in 2009, it noted that while Israel had said the “secret detention and interrogation facility” had not been used since 2006 it had rejected a request to inspect the prison.

Even with all the coverage, mystery still surrounds the imprisonment and death of Zygier. Overnight! After partially lifting a gag order banning media coverage of the case, Israel confirmed it imprisoned a mystery foreigner in solitary confinement, and that the man later committed suicide. A statement released by Israel’s justice ministry confirmed the prisoner was held under a warrant issued by a court, but did not reveal his identity or the charges against him.

“The Israel Prisons Service held a prisoner who was an Israeli citizen and also held foreign citizenship,” the statement said “For security reasons the man was held under a false identity although his family was immediately informed of his arrest.”

The government statement says the man was found dead in his cell two years ago and a judicial inquiry ruled that he had taken his own life.

“Procedures regarding the prisoner were followed by the highest officials at the ministry of justice, and the individual rights of the prisoner were retained, subject to the provisions of the law,” it said.

Watch the full Foreign Correspondent Video

Ben Zygier was also known by the names Ben Alon and Ben Allen, the ABC report surmises that he had been recruited by Israels’ spy agency Mossad. It is understood he “disappeared” in early 2010, spending several months in the Prisoner X cell at Ayalon Prison in the city of Ramla before being found dead.

UPDATE! 14 February 2013: This morning Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr, who had to make an embarrassing about-face on what his department knew about the case yesterday, was questioned about the case in a Senate Estimates hearing. He said intelligence sources first told the Government of Zygier’s imprisonment in February 2010.

“I’m advised in the form of an interim report that 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,” Senator Carr said. “The Australian Government specifically sought assurances from Israel that:

  • The individual’s legal rights would be respected.
  • He had legal representation of his own choosing, and
  • The individual’s family members had been notified of his arrest and detention, and 4. he was not being 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. The Australian Government relied on these assurances.” Senator Carr said.

“At no stage during his detention did the Australian Government receive any request from the individual or his family to extend consular support. The Australian Government was advised through intelligence channels on December 16 2010 of this individual’s death on the previous day, and the deceased’s family had been notified by Israeli authorities. The Australian embassy in Tel Aviv provided assistance in the repatriation of the body to Australia in December 2010. I speak with respect for the grieving of this man’s family, and I respect their grief at this news.”

Senator Carr said DFAT was still working on a final report on the issue, which it hopes to finalise towards the end of the week.

“With the benefit of that full report, I’ll determine what representations to the government of Israel are most useful,” Senator Carr said. “I will also want time to read fully and to analyse the statement that came from the Israeli government overnight.”

“I’d prefer not to venture further into this territory until I’ve received the full report.”  Senator Carr qualified.

DFAT head Peter Varghese also told the hearing the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv gained information about the case “through intelligence channels”.

Asked whether it was normal practice to seek assurances of a prisoner’s treatment through intelligence channels, Mr Varghese replied: “No Senator, it’s not normal practice and this is not a normal case”.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said Senator Carr had ordered a review of consular processes.

“I’d have to say that the events that have come out in the media are a tragedy,” Mr Dreyfus said. “They are deeply upsetting, particularly to Mr Zygier’s family. I’d extend my sympathies and those of the Government to Mr Zygier’s family.”

UPDATE! 13 February 2013: UPDATE! Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr has confirmed his department was made aware in 2010 that an Australian man, believed to be Prisoner X, was being held in a super-secret Israeli jail.

The ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program last night revealed the likely identity of Prisoner X as Melbourne man Ben Zygier – aka Ben Alon or Ben Allen – who was found dead in a prison near Tel Aviv in late 2010.

A spokeswoman for Senator Carr says the Minister was initially advised that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) was unaware of Zygier’s detention.

“DFAT has now advised that some officers of the department were made aware of Mr Allen’s detention at the time in 2010 by another Australian agency,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

“Minister Carr has asked department secretary, Mr Peter Varghese, to review the handling of this consular case.”

Zygier’s arrest and jailing in Israel remains a mystery, but the ABC understands he had been recruited by spy agency Mossad. It is understood he “disappeared” in early 2010, spending several months in the Prisoner X cell at Ayalon Prison in the city of Ramla before being found dead. The Prisoner X case is regarded as one of the most sensitive secrets of Israel’s intelligence community, with the government going to extraordinary lengths to stifle media coverage and gag attempts by human rights organisations to expose the situation.

Israeli censors today reinforced their ban on internal media reporting on the Prisoner X case based on the Foreign Correspondent program. Israels’  – Australian – Embassy in Canberra has declined to comment.

‘In Israel we can’t write about it’

The Prisoner X case is a state secret in Israel, with the government going to extraordinary lengths to stifle media coverage and gag attempts by human rights organisations to expose the situation. The deputy editor of the Jerusalem Post, David Breen, says another gag order was issued just after the ABC report hit the wires on Tuesday.

“Our police reporter Ben Hartman called me and said that he saw a story online on ABC TV in Australia about Prisoner X and about the TV show they were about to run giving details about him and his case in Israel,” Mr Breen told ABCs AM Program. “And we decided that it would be a story we needed to have and that he was going to write it. A few minutes later we received a phone call from the [Israeli Defence Force] military censor saying that any material about Prisoner X and about this Australian TV report could not be written about in Israel, it was under gag order by court order.”

“I pointed out the fact that I was reading about it right now on the ABC site and they said ‘It doesn’t matter, in Israel we can’t write about it’.”

Following the ABC report, Israeli MPs and commentators began asking tough questions about the mysterious detention and apparent suicide of Prisoner X. Twenty-four hours after Foreign Correspondent broke the story, the Israeli censor moved to ease the total blackout on coverage of the incident, allowing the local press to publish details from the report.

Although the Israeli press can now quote foreign media on details of the case, the restrictions bar any original reporting on the incident.

UPDATE! 15 February 2013: This story is quickly turning into a tragic tale of intrigue and espionage stretching from the Middle East to Melbourne, new light has now been shed on what may have led to the death of Prisoner X – Ben Zygier – Tuesday’s Foreign Correspondent investigation prised open the case of Prisoner X, a man now understood to be an agent of Mossad.

Zygier – according to Israeli authorities – killed himself in a top secret, supposedly suicide-proof Israeli prison cell in 2010. He was accused of espionage and treason. There are now claims his arrest may have had something to do with the assassination of a top Hamas official in 2010 and the Australian passport scandal in the same year.

Doubts have also been cast over whether he took his own life. One of his Israeli lawyers, who met him just days before his death says he gave no indication he was going to commit suicide. In an interview with Israel’s army radio, Mr Feldman said he had met Prisoner X to offer him advice ahead of his trial.

“When I saw him, there was nothing to indicate he was going to commit suicide,” said Avigdor Feldman, a top human rights lawyer. “His family asked that I meet him to advise him. The trial hadn’t properly started yet,” he said, indicating the prisoner had already been indicted and that talks were under way with senior prosecutors to reach a plea bargain. He asked for advice and I sat and listened to him. Not that I’m a psychologist, but he appeared rational, focused, he spoke clearly about the issue and didn’t exude any sense of self-pity.”

A day or two later, Mr Feldman’s liaison at the prison rang him to say the prisoner had died

The lawyer admitted he was surprised “that a man who was being held in a cell like that, a cell which was being monitored and checked 24-hours a day, could manage to commit suicide by hanging himself.”

Mr Feldman, who said he knew the prisoner’s real name and had access to the file on his arrest but was unable to give any details for legal reasons, said it was clear the detainee was facing a very long jail term.

“I understood that he was told he was likely to face the longest possible jail term and that he was likely to be ostracised by his family,” Mr Feldman said.

Mr Zygier came from a prominent Jewish family in Melbourne. In the 1990s he studied law at Monash University, before moving to Israel in his 20s, where he did military service and married. After several years, he returned to Melbourne and went back to Monash to study an MBA. By then, reports say he was already working for Mossad.

From his home in Seattle, author and blogger Richard Silverstein has been following the case.

“My understanding of what he was doing in Australia was he was going back a couple of times and getting new passports and different identities that they could use for other Mossad operations, he registered in an MBA at the Monash campus and he was seen with Saudi students and Iranian students so he might’ve been doing recruitment on campus,” Silverstein told ABC News. “That’s relatively mundane, everyday activity that Mossad engages in.”

January 2010 was a delicate time for Mossad and for Australia-Israeli relations. Australian passports had been used by Mossad agents sent to assassinate Mahmoud Al-Mabouh, a senior Hamas official, in Dubai.

Soon after – connected or not – Mr Zygier found himself in prison

Mr Silverstein says Mr Zygier may have been caught up in the assassination operation.

“It’s entirely possible he was involved in this operation in some capacity, it’s also possible that the assassination itself may have turned him away from what Mossad was doing,” Mr Silverstein said. “You can’t really rule anything out.”

Back in Canberra it seems Australian spies were watching. ASIO had reportedly been investigating three Australian-Israeli citizens suspected of spying. It was through ASIO that news of the jailing of Mr Zygier first reached Australian diplomats.

Since Tuesday’s Foreign Correspondent report aired, Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr has sent mixed messages, first saying Australia knew nothing about the prisoner before his death.

But today it was revealed diplomats did know about his detention in February 2010, 10 months before the Australian killed himself in prison.

“When information is received through intelligence channels then obviously it doesn’t find its way into your normal consular filing system and so when we were checking our consular files there was not that relevant information, we’ve since pieced more of it together,” DFAT secretary Peter Varghese said.

So what did this young Australian do that landed him in a high security Israeli prison? Reports from the region suggest he was facing serious charges of espionage of helping Israel’s enemies.

Mr Silverstein says there are several possibilities.

“If this was a betrayal of the state for financial reasons in which he was turned by another country’s security intelligence services and went to work for another country for financial reasons or whatever reasons,” Mr Silverstein said. “The other possibility which I’m more inclined to is there might have been a crisis of conscience of some kind, he might have been involved in activities he found repellent and he might have wanted to get out of the situation or blow the whistle on whatever he was engaged in.”

In Israel, the Australian’s detention and death have had virtually no coverage until now. The government’s gag order has been partially lifted. An Israeli court statement sheds some light on the case, but not much.

“The inmate was registered under a false identity for security reasons, but his family was notified immediately upon his arrest,” the statement reads. “The president has submitted the case to the state prosecutor’s office to examine aspects of negligence.”

Mr Zygier’s secret incarceration and death have also created a political uproar in Israel.

“Obscure prisoners kill themselves, no one knows about their existence. How is this on a par with a proper democracy, with a proper rule of law?” Israeli MP Zehava Galon has asked.

Three years since the saga began, the mystery of the young man’s death is slowly unravelling for those who were close to him. “Everybody loved Ben, he was considered to be a top boy, he always was,” Mr Greener said.

The Passport Scandal

FEBRUARY 2010: A former Mossad officer alleged the Israeli spy agency has its own “passport factory” to create or doctor passports for use in intelligence operations.

Relations between Australia and Israel are under strain after three Australian passports were apparently used by suspects in the killing of top Hamas leader Mahmoud Al Mabhouh in Dubai last month.

Dubai police say they are 99 per cent sure Mossad was behind the operation to smother Mabhouh with a pillow in his hotel room.

Victor Ostrovsky, a case officer at Mossad for several years in the 1980s, says he has no doubt Australian passports have been forged or fraudulently used for similar operations in the past.

“They need passports because you can’t go around with an Israeli passport, not even a forged one, and get away or get involved with people from the Arab world,” Mr Ostrovsky said. “They’ll shy away right away. So most of these [Mossad] operations are carried out on what’s called false flag, which means you pretend to be of another country which is less belligerent to those countries that you’re trying to recruit from. If they can obtain blank passports, which they have in the past from Canada, from England, they do. If not, they just manufacture them.”

He says a company within Mossad headquarters is dedicated to forging passports.

“They create various types of papers, every kind of ink. It’s a very, very expensive research department”

Mr Ostrovsky says the manufactured passports are almost identical to the originals, he continued, saying that fraudulent Australian passports have been used regularly.

“If they create a passport at a top level for use of that nature … I don’t think anybody will be able to find the difference,” he said. “Consider the fact that Australians speak English and it’s an easy cover to take, very few people know very much about Australia. You can tell whatever stories you want. It doesn’t take much of an accent to be an Australian or New Zealander, or an Englishman for that matter. And I know people had been under Australian cover not once [but] quite a few times. So why not use it?”

Mr Ostrovsky says Mossad chooses which passports to forge based on the cover agents need and the operation they are involved in.

“At the time there were people that were asked … ‘If when you’re here in Israel we may need for security purposes to use your passport, would you allow us to do that?'” he said. “And people would say ‘yes’. There were shelves upon shelves of real passports just waiting to be used.”

Mr Ostrovsky says there is no chance any of the 26 suspects could really be Mossad agents.

“No, absolutely not,” he said. “Except for James Bond, who actually pronounces or announces his arrival at the scene by saying, ‘I’m Bond, James Bond’. Most people who work in the intelligence field don’t present themselves by their real name.”

Israel has long rejected Mr Ostrovsky’s claims and tried to stop his book from being published. Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmour told ABC News Radio there was no proof of any link between Israel and Mabhouh’s death.

“No evidence was presented by the Dubai police that links Israel to the incident in Dubai,” he said. “Since there is no evidence of that nature and since the Dubai police have so far not presented any ultimate evidence, we don’t think that we should respond to anything.”

JUNE 2010: Authorities in Europe have arrested the first suspect over the assassination of a Hamas commander in a Dubai hotel room last January Nearly 30 suspects linked to the hit on top Hamas man Mahmoud al Mabhouh were found to be travelling on false passports from Australia, Britain, Ireland, France and Germany.

Investigative German magazine Der Spiegel is reporting that German intelligence helped Polish authorities arrest a man – who they allege was connected to the assassination – as he arrived at Warsaw Airport 10 days ago.

The man, known as Uri Brodsky, is now in custody in Poland and is suspected of being an Israeli Mossad agent who helped obtain false German passports for the assassins. One of the alleged assassins identified by Dubai police was travelling on a passport issued in the German city of Cologne, in the name of Michael Bodenheimer.

Brodsky – which may or may not be his real name – is accused of helping secure a false German passport for the assassin who travelled to Dubai as Michael Bodenheimer.

In February, one Michael Bodenheimer was found to be an ultra-Orthodox Israeli rabbi living on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, who apparently had no connection to Germany.

Germany is now seeking Uri Brodsky’s extradition, but the magazine says Israeli diplomats in Warsaw are urging Polish authorities to reject the request.

Israeli government minister Stas Misezhnikov says Uri Brodsky should instead be sent back to Israel, which has no extradition treaty with Germany.

“Poland needs to inform Germany that it is returning the Israeli citizen to Israel,” Mr Misezhnikov said. “And if there is a warrant against him, then we also have legal standards that are in line with international laws.”

Uri Brodsky’s arrest comes at a difficult time for Israel as it tries to deal with international criticism of its deadly commando raid on a flotilla of aid ships bound for Gaza. Nine people died during the raid.

The arrest has already caused some diplomatic friction. Hamas leaders in Gaza though, including Sami Abu Zuhri, have welcomed the arrest and are hoping there will be more.

“We hope that this international effort continues to arrest the killers of the martyr Al Mabhouh and they will be brought to justice,” he said.

Regardless of Uri Brodsky’s immediate fate, Dubai authorities say they will not be seeking his extradition if his only crime was committed in Germany, unless it is shown that he too took part in the assassination in Dubai. As to the identity of the man posing as Michael Bodenheimer – or any of the other assassins – it remains as much a mystery as ever.

The head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has defended the Government’s decision to expel an Israeli diplomat over the use of forged Australian passports. The diplomat was expelled last month after an investigation found Israeli authorities used Australian passports in an assassination plot earlier this year.

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and trade – DFAT – secretary Dennis Richardson has told a Senate estimates committee that Israel also misused an Australian passport in 2004. He says the country’s actions required a firm response.

“This did not require a slap on the wrist. This required a firm statement by Australia about our sovereignty,” Mr Richardson said. “If we weren’t prepared to take firm action against this background, what price do you put on sovereignty?”

Mr Richardson says Israel blatantly breached an agreement with Australian authorities

“In 2006 an agreement was entered into between an Australian agency and an Israeli agency about how things would be conducted,” Mr Richardson said. “Against that background earlier this year, Israel again misused Australian passports in the most flagrant and blatant of ways. We are entitled to have our own national interest, and unfortunately in this case a firm friend, a very good friend, did not abide by the principles of friendship.”

In February several forged Australian passports were used in the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

Nicole McCabe, Joshua Bruce, Adam Korman and Joshua Krycer have been named as the Australians whose passports were forged. All four live in Israel.

Mr Richardson has described the forgery involved in the case as “more than professional”. He says despite new technology, passport forgery will always remain a risk.

“The security of our passports and the integrity of our passports are equal to any in the world,” Mr Richardson said. “It is extraordinarily difficult at this point in time to produce a passport which another state may not be able to manipulate in some way.”

Israel Court Won’t Lay Neglect Charges

An Israeli court report has found evidence that negligent prison officials contributed to the death in custody of the alleged Australian-Israeli spy Ben Zygier.

Zygier, otherwise known as ‘Prisoner X’, was working for the Israeli spy agency Mossad before he was locked up under tight security in a prison near Tel Aviv. He was found hanged in his cell in 2010.

The case was kept secret until the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program uncovered it in February, sparking frenzied media debate about Zygier’s intelligence role and the nature of his alleged crime.

A new report from Israel’s Justice Ministry has found alleged evidence that negligent prison staff caused Zygier’s death. It says Zygier, 34, received “distressing news” from his wife just hours before hanging himself, but the jailer responsible for watching surveillance video from the isolation cell was away from the screen and missed the moments leading up to his death. The report also says that social workers saw Zygier 57 times and found him anxious and possibly suicidal. The report also suggests the prison service had not complied with special instructions on supervising Zygier, who was not considered a top suicide risk despite admitting previous urges to kill himself.

Israel’s state attorney says there is not enough evidence to charge anyone with criminal responsibility.

“The evidence is not sufficient in proving … that the prison authority, or anyone else, negligently caused the deceased’s death,” a statement from the state attorney said.

Without explicitly naming Zygier, Israel confirmed in 2010 that it had a dual nationality citizen in custody to prevent serious harm to national interests. The charges against him still remain top secret and under a gag order. The new report does not say why Zygier had been detained.

Fairfax newspapers and German Der Spiegel said last month that Zygier was a spy for the Mossad intelligence agency and had unwittingly given away secret information about Lebanese informants, who were later arrested and jailed in Lebanon.

According to this week’s report, Zygier was held in isolation in a cell that was under 24-hour video surveillance. He had regular sessions with social workers and psychiatrists, and was allowed family visits at the jail in Ayalon, central Israel.

On the day of his death, the report said Zygier had seen his pregnant wife and daughter, and received undisclosed news that left him “crying, agitated and upset”. The prison social worker testified that Zygier often displayed such emotions after family visits. When she asked after Zygier’s mood later on the same day, she was told that he was relaxed and watching television.

About two hours later, Zygier went into his bathroom and hanged himself. The guard monitoring the video had been asked to help out the understaffed team in the prison’s central command centre, which was not hooked up to the camera in question.

Lior Brand, a friend of Zygier’s, said in March that he cared deeply about Israel and wanted to do his bit for its security, but lacked the required emotional resilience.

“There was a background security check, his friends told them that he was unfit … they should not have recruited him,” Mr Brand said, without naming the agency that took Zygier in.

“What hurts is that the whole thing could have been avoided.”

source: abc

source: foreign correspondent

source: nyt

source: the guardian

source: afr


REBLOG! Foreign Correspondent: Israel’s Prisoner X


Foreign Correspondent

By Trevor Bormann

Evidence has been unearthed that strongly suggests Israel’s infamous Prisoner X, who was jailed under extraordinary circumstances in 2010, was an Australian national from Melbourne.

Investigations by the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program have revealed Ben Zygier, who used the name Ben Alon in Israel, was found hanged in a high-security cell at a prison near Tel Aviv in late 2010.

His body was flown to Melbourne for burial a week later.

The death goes part of the way to explain the existence in Israel of a so-called Prisoner X, widely speculated in local and international media as an inmate whose presence has been acknowledged by neither the jail system nor the government.

The case is regarded as one of the most sensitive secrets of Israel’s intelligence community, with the government going to extraordinary lengths to stifle media coverage and gag attempts by human rights organisations to expose the situation.

Watch the full Foreign Correspondent report on Prisoner X on iview.

The Prisoner X cell is a jail within a jail at Ayalon Prison in the city of Ramla. It was built for the assassin of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The ABC understands Mr Zygier became its occupant in early 2010. His incarceration was so secret that it is claimed not even guards knew his identity.

Israeli media at the time reported that this Prisoner X received no visitors and lived hermetically sealed from the outside world.

When an Israeli news website reported that the prisoner died in his cell in December 2010, Israeli authorities removed its web pages.

An Israeli court order prohibiting any publication or public discussion of the matter is still in force; Israel’s internal security service, Shin Bet, has effectively blocked any coverage of the matter.

Secret imprisonment

Foreign Correspondent can reveal that Mr Zygier was 34 at the time of his death and had moved to Israel about 10 years earlier. He was married to an Israeli woman and had two small children.

Mr Zygier’s arrest and jailing in Israel remains a mystery, but the ABC understands he was recruited by spy agency Mossad.

It is understood Mr Zygier “disappeared” in early 2010, spending several months in the Prisoner X cell.

At the time, human rights organisation Association for Civil Rights in Israel criticised the imprisonment and wrote to Israel’s attorney-general.

“It’s alarming that there’s a prisoner being held incommunicado and we know nothing about him,” wrote the association’s chief legal counsel Dan Yakir.

The assistant to the attorney-general wrote back: “The current gag order is vital for preventing a serious breach of the state’s security, so we cannot elaborate about this affair.”

Contacted by the ABC, Mr Yakir would not comment on the case, quoting a court order gagging discussion.

Bill van Esveld, a Jerusalem-based advocate for Human Rights Watch, has described the secret imprisonment of Prisoner X as “inexcusable”.

“It’s called a disappearance, and a disappearance is not only a violation of that person’s due process rights – that’s a crime,” he told Foreign Correspondent.

“Under international law, the people responsible for that kind of treatment actually need to be criminally prosecuted themselves.”

Mr Zygier’s apparent suicide in prison adds to the mystery. He was found hanged in a cell which was equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance systems installed to prevent suicide. Guards reportedly tried unsuccessfully to revive him.

His body was retrieved and flown to Melbourne. He was buried in Chevra Kadisha Jewish cemetery in the suburb of Springvale on December 22, seven days after his death.

Mr Zygier’s family has declined to speak to the ABC, and friends and acquaintances approached by Foreign Correspondent in Melbourne have also refused to comment.

Mossad activity

Australia’s domestic intelligence agency ASIO has long scrutinised Australian Jews suspected of working for Mossad.

The agency believes Mossad recruits change their names from European and Jewish names to “Anglo” names. They then take out new passports and travel to the Arab world and Iran, to destinations Israeli passport holders cannot venture.

Warren Reed, a former intelligence operative for Australia’s overseas spy agency ASIS, told Foreign Correspondent that Australians were ideal recruits for Mossad.

“Australians abroad are generally seen to be fairly innocent,” he said.

“It’s a clean country – it has a good image like New Zealand.

“There aren’t many countries like that, so our nationality and anything connected with it can be very useful in intelligence work.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that Mr Zygier also carried an Australian passport bearing the name Ben Allen.

‘Allegations troubling’

When told details of Foreign Correspondent’s investigation, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said he was concerned by the claims.

“Those allegations certainly do trouble me,” Senator Carr said.

“It’s never been raised with me. I’m not reluctant to seek an explanation from the Israeli government about what happened to Mr Allen and about what their view of it is.

“The difficulty is I’m advised we’ve had no contact with his family [and] there’s been no request for consular assistance during the period it’s alleged he was in prison.”

Senator Carr says in the absence of a complaint by Mr Zygier’s family, there is little for the Australian Government to act upon.

International conventions spell out that when a foreigner is jailed or dies, their diplomatic mission must be informed.

Senator Carr claims Australian diplomats in Israel only knew of Mr Zygier’s incarceration after his death.

Mr van Esveld says it is inexcusable for the Australian Government not to be notified.

“The obligation of one country to notify another when the other citizen has been arrested, detained, especially if they die – that is so basic. It is called customary law,” he said.

“Which means that even if Israel didn’t ratify a treaty saying it has to notify the other country, it still has to do so because that is such a basic norm of interstate relations.”

The greater mystery is why Mr Zygier was imprisoned under such secrecy.

Sources with connections to Israel’s intelligence community have told Foreign Correspondent his predicament would have been “extreme” to warrant such harsh treatment.

Former ASIS operative Mr Reed told the ABC: “However the transgression came about, it would have to be involved with espionage, treachery – very, very sensitive information that known to others would pose an immediate threat to Israel as a nation state.”

update: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-02-13/dfat-was-aware-of-australian27s-detention-in-israel/4517074

UPDATE! Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr has confirmed his department was made aware in 2010 that an Australian man, believed to be Prisoner X, was being held in a super-secret Israeli jail.

The ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program last night revealed the likely identity of Prisoner X as Melbourne man Ben Zygier – aka Ben Alon or Ben Allen – who was found dead in a prison near Tel Aviv in late 2010.

A spokeswoman for Senator Carr says the Minister was initially advised that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) was unaware of Zygier’s detention.

“DFAT has now advised that some officers of the department were made aware of Mr Allen’s detention at the time in 2010 by another Australian agency,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

“Minister Carr has asked department secretary, Mr Peter Varghese, to review the handling of this consular case.”

Read Trevor Bormann’s original story here

Watch the full Foreign Correspondent report on Prisoner X on iview

Zygier’s arrest and jailing in Israel remains a mystery, but the ABC understands he had been recruited by spy agency Mossad.

It is understood he “disappeared” in early 2010, spending several months in the Prisoner X cell at Ayalon Prison in the city of Ramla before being found dead.

The Prisoner X case is regarded as one of the most sensitive secrets of Israel’s intelligence community, with the government going to extraordinary lengths to stifle media coverage and gag attempts by human rights organisations to expose the situation.

Israeli censors today banned media reports based on the Foreign Correspondent program.

Seeking explanation

The country’s embassy in Canberra has declined to comment, although its ambassador today met Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop for a pre-arranged meeting.

Speaking before the meeting, Ms Bishop said she would be raising the case with the ambassador and was concerned the Israeli government was censoring media reports.

“That’s a matter that I’ll raise directly with the Israeli embassy to get an understanding of the basis for it,” she said.

“If there are security considerations I can understand it, but if it’s just about embarrassing a government agency, then that certainly requires an explanation and I’ll be seeking one.”

A spokesman for Ms Bishop says the ambassador undertook to pass on her concerns to “relevant authorities” in Israel.

This morning, Zygier’s musician uncle Willy Zygier, who is the partner of Melbourne singer Deborah Conway, told ABC Local Radio in Melbourne that he had “no idea what is true, what isn’t true”.

“All I know is there’s a family tragedy.  Every suicide is a tragedy. That’s all I’ve got to say,” he said.

Zygier’s family has previously declined to speak to the ABC, and friends and acquaintances approached by Foreign Correspondent in Melbourne had also refused to comment.

Frilled: GM Holden Rationakises South Australian Production Line


Car maker Holden says it will change the shift rotations at its Adelaide production plant.

Workers are to do two assembly line jobs during any single shift instead of six.

Executive director of manufacturing Richard Phillips said the change at the Elizabeth plant was being made for the launch of the new Commodore model.

“What we have done is reduce the number of jobs or operations employees are expected to remember over the course of a shift,” he said.

“Employees will now perform two jobs, versus the current six jobs, to enable us to focus on building and launching the best Commodore ever.

“This means our team members will still rotate between jobs approximately every two hours and there is no change to the shift or break structure.”

Holden said it had discussed the planned change with unions and it was likely to be introduced in the next two weeks, affecting about 1,300 workers.

Mr Phillips could not rule out workers having their hours reduced to meet market demand for vehicles.

“I’m not going to make any confirmation around what the market may or may not do between now and August, but certainly we’re very focused on building up the current range of Commodores and introducing this fantastic new VF Commodore and that’s what the organisation is focused on,” he said.


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Pssssst, Mossad: who is Donald Plumpton Marie – Marjane – Beaugeois

…and Eric Abetz ? Amro-Amroh-Mamoni

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