Prisoner X

This has been percolating for a few days, but I waited to make sense of it. [UPDATE: See Jeanette's important comment.]

Here goes:

Israel has agreed to pay millions in compensation to the family of Ben Zygier, the Israeli-Australian who died in an Israeli prison, a source involved in the affair told Haaretz.

Zygier committed suicide in a Ramle prison in 2010. An ongoing investigation is examining the possibility that his jailers were negligent in failing to prevent the tragedy.

The source said Israel agreed to pay millions of shekels several weeks ago, after an investigation concluded that Zygier’s death had been a suicide and before the affair was exposed by the Australian media.

Zygier had been held under a false identity for security reasons. It has been widely reported that he worked for the Mossad.

A Kuwaiti paper reported Thursday that Zygier had taken part in the assassination of senior Hamas terrorist Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh. Mabhouh died on January 20, 2010 in a hotel in Dubai in a killing widely attributed to Israel.

According to the Kuwaiti report, Zygier had contacted Dubai officials after the assassination and had revealed details of the operation. In exchange, he was promised protection – but Israeli agents found his hiding place and arrested him, the report said.

According to other reports, Zygier had planned to reveal details of Mossad operations to the Australian press, but was arrested before he could do so.

Israeli officials have declined to release details of the case, citing the need to maintain secrecy around certain matters for the sake of state security.

A Mossad agent who might have been part of a hit on a Hamass terrorist, and then might have offered to betray state secrets to a hostile foreign power, was arrested by his masters and held in prison—where he committed suicide. Two years ago.

What has Israel done wrong? They haven’t admitted to the Hamass hit-job, but who could blame them if they did it? And who lets their secret agents spill their secrets? Of course he belongs in jail if that’s what happened. The suicide was a big mistake, but if someone is so committed to taking his own life, he often finds a way (especially a secret agent). Operationally, Israel might have offended Australia by using Australian passports for its agents (if I were Australian security, I’d be pissed), but who hasn’t seen something like that in a Bourne movie? The only mistake was getting caught.

So, there it is, the whole sordid story. For now. Why he turned against Israel has yet to be determined, but it’s telling that he didn’t sell out to Australia (at first), but to an Arab government. If he felt it was wrong to kill terrorists—and the guy was a major league scumbag of a terrorist—he wouldn’t be alone. But then he was in a funny line of work.

I’m sorry he’s dead—he could have served his adopted country well, but he made his choices, and had to live, and die, with them.


  1. Jeanette said,

    February 15, 2013 @ 8:53 am

    No way can “Prisoner X” (Ben Zygier) considered to have been “secretly imprisoned” as both his family and the Australian government were informed, he had three lawyers representing him and the courts were made aware of his detention. He committed suicide the day before his case was set to be heard.

    According to his chief attorney, the noted human rights lawyer, Avigdor Feldman,”His status was what is known as ‘remanded until the end of proceedings,‘ and negotiations were under way with high-ranking figures in the state attorney‘s office in an attempt to reach some sort of plea bargain agreement.” Zygier was offered a plea bargain involving prolonged imprisonment, which he was loathe to accept. Following his suicide his body was flown to Australia where he was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Melbourne.

    Michael Ross, a former Mossad operations officer himself, believes that “Zygier is the victim of an Australian cover-up as much as he is an Israeli one. Like all complicated espionage dramas, the story would seem to have its roots in a seemingly unconnected incident that goes unnoticed by those examining the case. The beginning of this tragedy perhaps starts in 2004 in New Zealand.”
    Read on at

  2. Bloodthirsty Liberal said,

    February 15, 2013 @ 12:33 pm


    Thank you for a fascinating article and for your insight.

    - Aggie

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