The Australian Broadcasting Company’s Foreign Correspondent programme disclosed that Zygier, who used the names Ben Alon and Ben Allen in Israel, hanged himself in a high-security cell of a Tel Aviv prison in 2010. His body was flown to Melbourne for burial a week later.
Speculation about the prisoner’s identity has been widespread since the story broke more than two years ago. The case is one of the most sensitive in Israel’s intelligence community, with the government issuing gag orders to stifle media and human rights coverage of the situation.
The Prisoner X cell is a jail within a jail at Avalon prison in the city of Ramla. It was first built for the assassin of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. At the time, Israeli media reported that Prisoner X received no visitors and lived secluded from the outside world.
When an Israeli news website reported that the prisoner died in his cell in December 2010, Israeli authorities removed its website.
Israel has not officially commented on the ABC report. An Israeli court order prohibiting any publication or public discussion of the matter is still in force. Israel’s internal security service, Shin Bet, has continued to block media coverage of the case.
The Israeli prime minister’s office called an emergency meeting of Israeli media chiefs after the ABC story was published on Tuesday and urged them not to publish “information pertaining to an incident that is very embarrassing to a certain government agency”, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper website reported.
The government removed an article about the Australian report that appeared in Haaretz on Tuesday.
Reporting restrictions were partially lifted on Wednesday after members of the Knesset (parliament) asked questions about the case.
ABC said the reason for his detention was not disclosed and his identity was kept so secret that not even his guards knew whom he was. The report did say there was evidence to suggest Zygier worked for Israel’s spy agency, Mossad.
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr told ABC he was troubled by the findings. He says Australian diplomats in Israel only knew of Zygier’s detention after his death.
He said Zygier’s family didn’t make a complaint, without which there was little the government could do.
Foreign Correspondent was able to reveal that Zyglier was 34 when he died and had moved to Israel 10 years earlier. He married an Israeli woman and had two small children.
Zygier’s family declined to speak to the ABC, and friends and acquaintances approached by Foreign Correspondent in Melbourne have also refused to comment.
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