Israel's Attorney General Vowed to Safeguard Prisoner X, Claims Israeli MK

MK Nitzan Horowitz, who on Tuesday found out about Ben Zygier's suicide, says that after his 2010 inquiry about the prisoner's condition, he was assured that the authorities were keeping a close watch Zygier's well-being.

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MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) tried to help Prisoner X months before he hanged himself in June 2010 and says he was shocked to hear of his suicide from an Australian television report Tuesday.

In June 2010, Horowitz argued against keeping Prisoner X, reportedly an Australian Mossad agent named Ben Zygier, isolated and out of public view. Horowitz told Haaretz Tuesday that Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri telephoned Horowitz at the time, assuring him that the State Prosecutor’s Office was keeping a close watch on the affair and ensuring the prisoner’s welfare and safety. Horowitz then wrote a letter to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, urging him to keep the prisoner from being held in isolation.

“Keeping a prisoner or detainee from contact with all others and from the outside world over a long period of time is fraught with many dangers,” Horowitz wrote. “Besides the terrible fear of violating the rights of a human being who has no contact with the outside world, a report of the Prison Service and the Public Security Ministry determined that long-term imprisonment in isolation causes a great deal of physical and psychological damage, to the point of deeply psychotic reactions. Even when it is necessary to keep a prisoner separate, everything must be done to ensure that this will not lead to keeping him in utter isolation and depriving him of all contact with other human beings. This report gives rise to a suspicion that these principles are not being applied in the case of ‘Mr. X.’ Besides the isolation, such a complete blackout concerning the arrest of a person and perhaps his trial too is unacceptable. Secret arrests and trials are unacceptable in a free democratic country; they pose a tangible threat to the rule of law and deeply harm the public’s trust in the legal system.

“There are cases that justify a blackout of an investigation. But the moment a person is arrested – and certainly from the moment he is put on trial – there can be no more justification for such complete secrecy, and over such a long period of time. It is intolerable to any reasonable person that in a democratic country, the authorities should be able to arrest people in complete secrecy and ‘disappear’ them from the public eye without the public knowing the arrest was even made. This applies even more strongly to putting people on trial.”

Zygier hanged himself in the isolation wing of Ayalon Prison in Ramla on Dec. 15, 2010.

Ben Zygier's grave in Melbourne.Credit: Handout
Outgoing MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), Israel's only openly gay legislator, April 30, 2012. Credit: Emil Salman
Life of Prisoner X

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