Australian-born suspected foreign intelligence agent committed suicide in solitary confinement in 2010, israeli media reported wednesday after a strict gag order was lifted.
The man, who was imprisoned in a highly secretive manner, was married to an israeli woman and had two children, it said. According to a report by the australian broadcaster ABC, the prisoner is ben zygier, who emigrated to israel twelve years ago. He is said to have changed his name to ben alon and worked for the mossad intelligence service. Speculation is now, he could have worked as a double agent.
Israel officially confirmed the existence and death of the mysterious captive for the first time on wednesday night. The man in question was an israeli citizen who also held a foreign passport. For security reasons, he was listed under a false name. True name not mentioned in declaration.
According to ABC, "prisoner X" was kept in complete isolation in ayalon prison, even the guards did not know his identity. The murderer of former prime minister izchak rabin was also imprisoned in the tightly secured prison near tel aviv. No charges were ever brought against the australian. In late 2010, the then 34-year-old man was found hanged in his cell. The cause of death was asphyxiation. It is not known what he was accused of at the time.
Before his imprisonment in israel, he was also caught in the crosshairs of the australian intelligence service, which suspected him of misusing his home country’s passport for spy trips to arab countries and iran, the australian newspaper "the age" reported. He had changed his name several times: to ben alon, ben allen and benjamin burrows. In 2009, he had enrolled as a student at monash university in australia and tried to befriend fellow students from saudi arabia and iran.
Israel’s civil liberties union on wednesday pressed for the release of further details and asked uncomfortable questions. How did man take his own life in allegedly suicide-proof prison? Were there negligent acts of omission? Who is responsible?
Israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu had summoned senior media officials from the country to an emergency meeting on tuesday. The head of the government reportedly told them not to publish the story because it could damage israel’s image.
The case was already making the rounds on the internet outside israel, and israeli deputies demanded disclosure of the incident in parliament. Arab deputy ahmed tibi called on justice minister jaakov neeman to comment on the reports. Sahava galon of the left-liberal merez party said: "the government should have informed parliament and the public about this serious affair on its own initiative"."
Former israeli auben minister avigdor lieberman accused parliamentarians on wednesday of trying to harm israeli state security.
The australian department of corrections corrected original statements wednesday, saying some people had been informed of the man’s detention. Bob carr, the minister of auben, had initially said that no one knew about the case because the family had not contacted the government for consular assistance. The israeli authorities had only informed the australian embassy of the death of a man with dual citizenship in 2010.
The minister ordered an investigation into the incident. According to ABC, the body was flown to melbourne in december 2010 and buried there at the jewish cemetery.