'Prisoner X' Affair |

Israeli Panel to Investigate Death of Alleged Mossad Agent Ben Zygier

Knesset subcommittee announces 'intensive examination,' but Israeli MKs call for independent probe; Labor MK to State Comptroller: When Australia publishes results of its investigation, Israel will appear irrelevant.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee for Intelligence decided on Sunday to hold an "intensive examination" of all aspects surrounding the death of alleged Mossad agent Ben Zygier, otherwise known as Prisoner X, who died in Israeli custody in 2010 after being held without public knowledge.

Meanwihle, members of Knesset pressed for an independent investigation into the case of the dual Australian-Israeli citizen's death in Ayalon Prison.

MK Nahman Shai (Labor) called on State Comptroller Joseph Shapira on Sunday to launch such an investigation.

"We are witnessing blunders in various aspects of the case - intelligence, legal, public, media and parliamentary. The Australian government will publish the information it has, and again make Israel appear irrelevant to the international community and Israeli public," he said. "Time is a decisive factor, and I demand the state comptroller allocate the time for this investigation and undertake to publish its findings as quickly as possible."

MK Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) called for a state commission of inquiry into the affair.

Ariel, who until recently was chairman of the Knesset State Control Committee, called on interim Knesset Speaker Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and the chairman of the Knesset arrangements committee, Zeev Elkin to temporarily re-appoint him chairman of the committee, so that he could advance the establishment of such an investigative panel.

MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) also called for the establishment of an independent inquiry.

"I hope the government will have the courage necessary to establish an independent inquiry committee, which will deal with the many questions that still remain open [about the Prisoner X case] and so the necessary conclusions can be drawn," Cabel said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday commented on the Prisoner X affair in the first official Israeli government statement since the affair came to light last week.

Netanyahu, who as prime minister oversees the Mossad's activities, opened the weekly cabinet meeting with a statement rejecting criticism of the organization for its handling of the affair, particularly after the broadcast of an Australian television expose last week.

Netanyahu also spoke out in defense of the government's legal advisor and the state prosecution, claiming that the gag orders initially issued on the affair did not infringe on freedom of expression.

"I would like to open the meeting by saying that I trust the security forces of the State of Israel completely. They work with endless dedication to ensure that we can live in this land. I also have absolute trust in the legal authorities of the State of Israel," the prime minister said.

"Israel's security and intelligence forces act under the full supervision of the legal authorities, which are completely independent. In providing for security and enforcing the law, freedom of expression is also protected. But we need to remember that we are not like the other states."

"We are an exemplary democratic state and we protect the rights of the interrogated and individual rights no less than any other country. But we are also more threatened and face more challenges, and thus we must maintain the proper activities of our security services. Therefore I ask of everyone: Let the security forces continue to do their work undisturbed, so that we can continue to live in security and tranquility in the State of Israel."

The tombstone of Ben Zygier at Chevra Kadisha Jewish Cemetery in Melbourne, Australia.Credit: AP

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