First Reporter to Snoop Around Zygier Is 'Surprised' at Outcome

Jason Koutsoukis had first called Zygier in late 2009 following a tip-off he received from a source with intelligence connections in Australia.

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Jason Koutsoukis was very surprised when heard on Monday morning that Ben Zygier had been arrested three years ago on treason charges. The Australian reporter had contacted Zygier a short while before his arrest and tried to interview him for Fairfax Media, the newspaper group which he represented at the time in Israel.

“I saw the picture that ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) put on the screen and before I heard the name and I knew instantly that it was him because I had seen his picture before,” he told Haaretz Thursday. Despite immediately recognizing him, Koutsoukis says he “was really shocked and didn’t believe it. I thought they had made a mistake and got it wrong.”

Koutsoukis had first called Zygier in late 2009 following a tip-off he received from a source with intelligence connections in Australia. The source had told him that the ASIO, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, was investigating the case of three Australian citizens who had immigrated to Israel and were using their Australian passports for espionage purposes. One of three Australians whose movements were being followed by the ASIO was Zygier.

Koutsoukis’ impression of Zygier was of a patriotic young Israeli. “Here was a man who had demonstrated such a passionate commitment to the State of Israel, served in its army and I was shocked that they were saying he had done these things,” the journalist said. “I knew he had a family in Melbourne and that they were very involved in the Jewish community ... and I knew he was married to an Israeli woman.”

Koutsoukis called Zygier a few times when he was working on his report. Each time they spoke over the phone Zygier refused to meet him in person. Koutsoukis told him that there was an investigation against him in Australia, that they thought he was working for Mossad in Europe and in Iran.

“He listened to me the first time and listened to what I had to say to him and denied it very strenuously,” he said. “I called him again about a month later and he denied it again very, very strongly and told me to please stop harassing him.”

Ben Zygier, the dual citizen who killed himself in prison.

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