Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, deepened the mystery surrounding the suspected Mossad agent, Ben Zygier by firmly rejecting reports he had “contact” with Australian intelligence before his arrest.”Following recent publications, the prime minister’s office stresses that [the late] Mr Zygier had no contact with the Australian security services and organisations,” a statement from Mr Netanyahu’s office said.
It was his most definitive statement yet on what has become known as the “Prisoner X” affair and the first time that he has mentioned Zygier by name. Israel has tried to hush up the case and conceal the man’s identity.
Zygier, who held Israeli and Australian citizenship, was identified by Australia’s television network ABC last week as a Mossad agent who was found dead in his high-security cell in Ayalon Prison in Ramla, near Tel Aviv, in December 2010. It said he had been incarcerated 10 months earlier.
The network later reported that he had betrayed top secret Mossad operations to the Australian domestic intelligence agency, which had become aware of his Israeli intelligence work after he made multiple passport applications under different assumed names.
Mr Netanyahu appeared to dismiss that suggestion when he said Israel and Australia had “excellent cooperation, full co-ordination and complete transparency”.
A newly-released inquest report said Zygier hanged himself using a bed sheet. The detail emerged after a court agreed to loosen a gag order on the circumstances into the death. “The deceased was found hanging in the shower of his detention cell, with a sheet around his neck tied to the window of the bathroom,” stated a document released by Rishon LeZion magistrates’ court.
The inquest also said the Israel prisons service could be guilty of “negligence”, but Judge Dafna Blatman-Kardai ruled out foul play. Entry to the cell was monitored by cameras, she said, and examination of footage showed no one “intervened in causing the death”.
Zygier was found dead despite being supposedly subject to round-the-clock surveillance from in-cell cameras.
Separately, Tzipi Livni the former Israeli foreign minister and leader of the HaTnuah (The Movement) party, became the first party leader to enter Mr Netanyahu’s new coalition government after agreeing to serve as justice minister.
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