Jerusalem/Canberra, Feb. 14 (Reuters): An Australian immigrant, reported to have been recruited by Israel’s Mossad spy agency, was charged with grave crimes before he committed suicide in an Israeli jail, one of his lawyers said today.
The closely guarded case has raised questions in Australia and Israel about the suspected use by the Mossad of dual Australian-Israeli nationals and the circumstances behind the 2010 detention and death of 34-year-old Ben Zygier.
Israel yesterday broke its silence over an Australian Broadcasting Corporation report which said that Zygier, who moved to Israel, was jailed in isolation over suspected misconduct while spying for the Mossad.
Partially lifting a gag order on the case, an Israeli court said a dual-nationality citizen had been imprisoned secretly under a false name for “security reasons”, and found dead in his cell in what was eventually ruled a suicide.
Israeli criminal attorney Avigdor Feldman said he met with the man, dubbed “Prisoner X”, a day before his death.
“I met a balanced person, given the tragic outcome, who was rationally weighing his legal options,” Feldman told Channel 10 Television.
He said the detainee was charged with “grave crimes” and that there were ongoing negotiations for a plea bargain. The attorney did not elaborate on the allegations, which he said the prisoner denied.
The Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida quoted today unidentified western sources as saying Zygier took part in the killing by a Mossad hit-team of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mahbouh in Dubai in 2010. Zygier, the newspaper reported, offered Dubai information about the operation in return for the emirate’s protection.
Offering a different version, Australia’s Fairfax Media said Australian security officials suspected Zygier may have been about to disclose Israeli intelligence operations.