Analysis |

Even After Report Into Zygier's Suicide, His Motive Remains a Mystery

Israel has released information on the death of Prisoner X, but it's a pathologist's report, not a psychologist's report.

Amir Oren
Amir Oren
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Amir Oren
Amir Oren

The report on Ben Zygier's suicide deals with the what but not the why.

The partial version released by Judge Daphna Blatman Kedrai Tuesday left a disturbing feeling that she worked for two years on narrow terms such as causing death by negligence, a lost window of opportunity and asphyxia. She failed to take a broad look into why Zygier, also known as Prisoner X, ended his own life.

So this isn't an investigation into the reasons for Zygier's death, it's an investigation into the circumstances: a cell, a shower, a towel, a sheet, distracting the guards. It's a pathologist's report, not a psychologist's report. What went on in the mind of the prisoner in whose blood was found traces of a sedative? Who pushed him, in word or deed, to believe that there was no way out, that dying was better than living?

Blatman Kedrai absolved herself from dealing with these questions, but they're the most intriguing ones after discounting the unreasonable scenario that someone sneaked into the cell and murdered Zygier, or that he was executed and the crime was covered up. Suicide was the result. No answer was given on why.

Blatman Kedrai should have ordered a thorough investigation of Zygier's file if she seriously wanted to learn the reason for his death; an investigation of the investigation. What did Shin Bet investigators and his Mossad handlers say to him, directly or through his family and others? Was there an air of "traitors deserve a bullet in the head," when a bullet could be a pill?

The Blatman report reveals very problematic behavior by officials. Everyone is criticizing the poor prison service, which is at the bottom of the food chain.

It's practically impossible to prevent a man from committing suicide. He can bang his head against the wall or find other ways to die in the worst way he can imagine. Years ago, police officers Yaakov Grossman and Boaz Yifat encountered a prisoner who carried out his plan to kill himself by wrapping a towel around a toothbrush.

To prevent a prisoner from using the privacy of a shower or a bathroom, a jailer has to be in his cell and maintain constant voice contact. Even if such resources were allocated, a suicidal prisoner probably would have found his way around it.

The Zygier case should be investigated more thoroughly. The police wanted a reliable investigation, and they assumed a judge would do the job. So the Zygier suicide received more secret attention than has been dedicated to the dozen similar incidents over the past two years. Expectations weren't met.

Now a sad joke is going around: The secret service subcommittee of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will investigate the Zygier affair. Among its members is a prison-service expert from the inside, Aryeh Deri, and former Shin Bet head Jacob Perry, who was bitterly attacked in the state comptroller's report on the Shin Bet's functioning in cases where people died under interrogation.

The mock-up of Ben Zygier's passport.Credit: Screenshot ABC

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