Photo: YouTube/ABC News
Australians and Israelis are questioning the official story that the Australian man and Mossad spy who died in an Israel prison in December 2010 committed suicide.A family friend of Ben Zygier told the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) that he doubts the 34-four-year-old father of two would hang himself in the bathroom of his “suicide-proof” cell.
“The death being noted as suicide comes as a great surprise to us all,” Henry Greener told ABC. “He would be the last person on earth that I would guess would take his own life, especially being in a high security prison where there’s nothing to hang from.”
Zygier’s death came two days after he met with top Israeli human rights lawyer Avigdor Feldman, who said Zygier was “emotionally stable” and “absolutely not” suicidal when they discussed his upcoming case.
“When I saw him, there was nothing to indicate he was going to commit suicide,” Feldman said. “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.”
In a separate radio interview, Feldman expressed surprise a prisoner in “a cell which was being monitored and checked 24-hours a day, could manage to commit suicide by hanging himself.”
Uri Misgav of Haaretz writes that Zygier “died in strange, suspicious circumstances,” citing the Australian’s new daughter and the fact that Feldman was advising him about whether to go on trial in an Israeli court or agree to a plea bargain.
One could imagine a situation in which a person in extreme prison conditions who faces a threatening, fateful dilemma chooses to commit suicide. One may also wonder about the likelihood of his committing suicide four days after his daughter’s birth and immediately after meeting a lawyer to examine his options and leaning toward a trial rather than a plea bargain.
Misgav notes that, based on the information he’s gathered, Zygier “had committed an offence of negligence, inadvertently, with no malice aforethought” that could have led to “a certain breach of security.” Nevertheless, “it was not a fateful offence and the authorities’ reaction was disproportionate” since people who commit severe treason and espionage “are not offered plea bargains.”
Zygier’s was detained in January 2010, eight days after authorities in Dubai claimed that suspected Israeli agents with fraudulent Australian passports assassinated a Palestinian militant.
Jodi Rudoren of The New York Times reports that Al Jarida, a liberal opposition newspaper in United Arab Emirates, claimed Zygier had provided the authorities in Dubai with “names and pictures and accurate details” in exchange for protection, but Israel kidnapped him from a hiding place and imprisoned him on charges of treason.
On Thursday The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Australian intelligence officials believe that Zygier may have been ready to divulge details about Mossad’s use of fraudulent Australian passports in operations.
Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser had this to say:
Zygier ‘close to spilling on Israel’ Plausible, most likely cause, therefore unlikely suicide. theage.com.au/national/-2eg0…
— Malcolm Fraser (@MalcolmFraser12) February 14, 2013
The doubts about the suicide are just the latest in a very mysterious case, the discussion of which was prohibited in Israel for years because of a gag order. Israeli authorities partially lifted the gag order this week, allowing domestic media outlets to quote foreign reports but not publish or broadcast original material.
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