PM's Office Hints Zygier Worked for Mossad

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office yesterday issued its first official statement regarding the Prisoner X affair, regarding the arrest and death of alleged Mossad agent Ben Zygier.

Zygier, 34 at the time of his death in solitary confinement in the Ayalon Prison, is suspected of being a Mossad agent or a double agent for Australia, according to Australian media reports.

The Prime Minister's Office did not explicitly say in its statement that Zygier had worked for the State of Israel, but did declare that the Australian-born dual citizen had no connection with the security service in his native land.

"Following the many reports, we emphasize that Mr. Zygier had no contact at all with the Australian security services and organizations," the PMO said in its statement. Israeli media have carried over the last few days reports from Australia that Zygier was arrested by his Israeli handlers for allegedly passing information to the Australian Security Intelligence Organization regarding the Mossad's activities.

The PMO said in response to those reports that "the State of Israel and all of its organizations, and the Australian government and its security organizations, have an outstanding relationship, full coordination, and full transparency regarding all matters on the agenda."

The announcement was made on behalf of the Prime Minister's Office and not the Prime Minister's Bureau, which likely suggests that the Mossad - which is part of the Prime Minister's Office - is actually the body behind the message.

The announcement was also phrased in a manner that seems to confirm, albeit in a roundabout way, that Ben Zygier worked for the Mossad - or, if not for the Mossad itself, then at least somewhere in state security.

The unusual announcement was also seen as an attempt to minimize the damages to the diplomatic relations between Israel and Australia, and to prevent the two countries' cooperation in intelligence efforts from stalling. The Zygair affair has caused great embarrassment not only to the Mossad, but also to the Australian Security Intelligence Organization and to the Australian government at large.

Der Spiegel added to the foreign media reports regarding Zygier yesterday, saying that two other Australian-born agents, Paul Y. and David Z., were also living in Israel under fake names.

Israel earlier yesterday agreed to the partial publication of the investigation into Zygier's death at Ayalon Prison on December 15, 2010. Rishon Letzion Magistrate's Court subsequently ordered a partial lifting of the gag order on the investigation.

The report found that Zygier had hanged himself in the shower of his solitary confinement cell. "The deceased was found hanging in the shower of the prison cell with a bed sheet tied around his neck, suspended from a window in the bathroom," the report said.

In the investigation, Judge Daphna Blatman Kedrai determined that Zygier had committed suicide. She also found evidence of possible negligence by Israel Prison Service officials, including senior officials. She ordered the State Prosecutor's Office to examine whether any negligence would justify an indictment.

The state has asked to withhold a number of details in the investigation to prevent interference with another probe into possible negligence in the case.

The state wrote that after weighing all considerations, the court may order the publication of the report on the cause of death, with the exception of certain parts. The state took into account the position of the Zygier family, which left the decision to the court's discretion if identifying details on the family were not published.

The court accepted the state's request that it address the motion to publish additional details again within 21 days, "so it will have sufficient time to study the case and formulate its position as to the totality of the considerations relevant to allowing publication of the rest of the decision."

Australian newspapers lead their front pages in Australia on February 14, 2013, with the story of Ben Zygier.Credit: AFP

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