Israel censor eases some restrictions over ‘Prisoner X’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 February, 2013, 4:42pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 February, 2013, 5:18pm

The Israeli censor on Wednesday slightly eased tight restrictions on the death of “Prisoner X”, allowing the press to publish excerpts of an ABC report which said he was an Australian with ties to Mossad.

The story of the so-called Prisoner X first emerged in May 2010 when Israel’s Ynet news website briefly ran a story about a prisoner being held in top secret conditions whose identity and crime was not even known to his jailers.

The story was quickly taken offline and a complete media blackout was imposed, but it reemerged on Tuesday when Australia’s ABC news identified the mystery prisoner as an Australian national who had reportedly been recruited by Israel’s shadowy spy agency.

After three Israeli MPs raised questions over the issue in parliament, the censor moved to ease the reporting restrictions, allowing the Israeli media on Wednesday to report the details published in the ABC report.

In its report, ABC named the prisoner as 34-year-old Ben Zygier, but said he was known in Israel as Ben Alon.

It said his arrest and incarceration was one of the most sensitive secrets of Israel’s intelligence community.

Before he was arrested in early 2010, Zygier had been living in Israel for about 10 years and was married to an Israeli woman with whom he had two children, the channel said.

ABC said he had been recruited by Mossad, but had no information on why he was arrested and taken to Ayalon Prison near Tel Aviv where he was held in virtual isolation until his “apparent suicide” in December that year.

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr on Wednesday confirmed he had ordered a review of the handling of the case.

“That’s not to suggest anything untoward has happened, but given that there’s an interest in the case, let’s have a review,” his spokesman said.

In the ABC interview, Carr said Australia only became aware of Zygier’s incarceration after his death and said he was troubled by the questions raised by the report.