An investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) has created a stir in the upper echelons of Israel’s intelligence apparatus.ABC reports that ‘Prisoner X’ — an infamous prisoner secretly held by Israel who committed suicide in 2010 — was a 34-year-old Australian national named Ben Zygier.
Israeli paper Haaretz reported on ABC’s investigation, but the story has since been removed. Haaretz reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office summoned Israeli editors to ask them not to publish a story “that is very embarrassing to a certain government agency.”
ABC posits that Zygier was recruited by Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, and assumed the name Ben Alon after moving to Israel around 2000.
The report states that in early 2010 Zygier was “disappeared” and taken to “a jail within a jail at Ayalon Prison” where he received no visitors and lived completely isolated from the outside world. ABC adds that not even his guards were reportedly not aware of his identity or alleged crime, and that his presence has not been acknowledged by the jail system nor the government.
Photo: ABC TV
Warren Reed, a former intelligence operative for Australia’s overseas spy agency ASIS, told ABC that Zygier’s alleged crime “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.”
According to ABC, in December 2010 an Israeli news website reported that the ‘Prisoner X’ had died in his cell, and Israeli authorities removed the story under a media gag order.
Peter Beaumont of The Guardian reports the Israeli government first sought to prevent reporting of the case in a gag order sought in March 2010, and that a second “clarifying order” stated that the ban “referred to all Israeli media and preventing any discussion” of Prisoner X. Reuters referred to such a gag order as “highly unusual in Israel.”
“We only know the absolute bare bones of this case,” Human Rights Watch researcher Bill van Esveld told The Guardian. “We know that there was some kind of gagging order and it would be almost unheard of to involve a judge to silence a story that had no basis in truth.”
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