State Prosecutor Won't Indict Prison Guards for Possible Negligence in Death of Prisoner X

The announcement comes in the wake of the discovery that Ben Zygier was improperly supervised at Ayalon Prison, even though he was known to have suicidal tendencies.

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The State Prosecutor's Office says it will not indict Prison Service personnel in connection with the death of suspected Mossad agent Ben Zygier, despite evidence of negligence by jailers responsible for supervising the Australian-Israeli prisoner.

Zygier, or "Prisoner X" as he is otherwise known, died of apparent suicide in 2010 while being secretly held at Ayalon Prison for alleged security offenses. A state report released Thursday claims he was not properly supervised, despite the fact that he was known to have suicidal tendencies.

The Justice Ministry, however, issued a statement Thursday saying it is not possible to determine "with the degree of certainty required" that Prison Service personnel or others "caused the death of the deceased through negligence."

State Prosecutor Moshe Lador added that although the Prison Service is responsible for detainees under its supervision, this does not necessarily mean the service or its guards are criminally responsible "should a prisoner find it possible to take his own life.”

Lador continued: “We are unaware of a precedent for trying someone on criminal charges in the wake of negligent failures when it comes to a suicidal act.”

Rishon Letzion Magistrate's Court President Judge Daphna Blatman Kedrai had ruled previously that there was indeed evidence of negligence on the part of the Prison Service. She ordered the Prosecutor’s Office to consider filing indictments against its personnel, including high-level officials.

Some details of the court decision were released for publication in February, but the clauses pertaining to the involvement of Prison Service personnel were not released until Thursday. The Prosecutor’s Office had asked the court to keep this information confidential until it decided whether to issue any indictments.

According to the judge at the time, “Special supervision orders for preventing suicide risks were issued, and these were known to the people in charge of supervision and surveillance. These supervision orders were not carried out." Thus, a "suicidal window of opportunity" developed, she wrote.

"The supervision room was abandoned and unmanned, notation was not made in the supervision log every half hour from 5:52 P.M. until the body of the deceased was found [around 8 P.M.]; camera 116 [in the bathroom where Zygier's body was found] did not broadcast to the control room due to a malfunction that had not been repaired; and the camera quality was inadequate in the darkness of the cell.”

In addition, the judge stated, an infrared light bulb installed in the cell did not work and when the wardens raised this issue, they were told it could not be repaired because “the budget was used up.”

Judge Blatman Kedrai singled out Prison Service supervisor Master Sergeant M.A., who left the control room, did not correct the inferior lighting and communications conditions, and failed to update the log for almost an hour. She also named deputy intelligence officer A.D., who was assigned duties in the control room that day and did not enforce rules for supervising the wing where Zygier was held or procedures for preventing his suicide.

The judge found no evidence of negligence on the part of medical personnel or social workers in the Prison Service.  

Ben Zygier in IDF uniform.Credit: SMH Website

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