Prisoner X 'shared Mossad secrets'

2013-02-18 13:05
Australian newspapers lead their front pages in Australia with the story of Ben Zygier after Israel confirmed it jailed a foreigner in solitary confinement on security grounds who later committed suicide. (File, AFP)

Australian newspapers lead their front pages in Australia with the story of Ben Zygier after Israel confirmed it jailed a foreigner in solitary confinement on security grounds who later committed suicide. (File, AFP)

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Sydney - Suspected Mossad agent Ben Zygier was arrested by his Israeli employer because the dual national had shared secrets with Australia's spy agency, the national broadcaster ABC said on Monday.

Zygier was found hanged in his cell in December 2010 after being held incommunicado for 10 months.

ABC revealed last week that Zygier, the son of a well-known Melbourne Jewish family, was the mysterious "Prisoner X" held for national security reasons in maximum-security Ayalon prison.

The network said Zygier was one of three Australian Jews who changed their names several times and took out new passports for travel in the Middle East and Europe while working for Mossad.

It said, citing unnamed sources, that Zygier had met with Australia intelligence officers and told them about Mossad operations, including plans for a secret mission in Italy.

Zygier, a lawyer who left Australia for Israel in 2000, had served in the Israeli military before taking a law degree at Melbourne University. He is said to have used the surnames Alon, Allen and Burrowes and had applied for a work visa to Italy.

The report said Zygier, who was 34 when he died, had set up a communications company in Europe for Mossad that employed the two other Australian dual citizens and exported electronic components to Arab countries as well as to Iran.

No request for consular assistance

Australia knew Israeli authorities were detaining Zygier just days after his 2010 arrest, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said last week.

"The Australian government was informed in February 2010 through intelligence channels that the Israeli authorities had detained a dual Australian-Israeli citizen, and they provided the name of the citizen in relation to serious offences under Israeli national security legislation," Carr said.

The foreign minister said the Australian government had not received a request for consular assistance from Zygier's family and had not interceded on his behalf.

Zygier's body was flown to Melbourne seven days after his death and buried in Chevra Kadisha Jewish Cemetery. Family and friends refused to speak to the press.

Zygier's detention coincided with a spat between Israel and Australia over Mossad's methods. In May 2010, then-foreign minister Stephen Smith expelled the Israeli station chief in Canberra after Mossad was found to have forged the passports of four dual nationals.

The passports had reportedly been used in what is believed to be a Mossad operation to assassinate Mahmoud al-Mabhouh of the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas in Dubai in January 2010.

It is not known whether the two cases were linked.

Read more on:    australia  |  israel  |  espionage

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