[Marxism] Israel’s Prisoner X Is Linked to Dubai Assassination in a New Report
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Fri Feb 15 08:13:29 MST 2013
NY TImes February 14, 2013
Israel’s Prisoner X Is Linked to Dubai Assassination in a New Report
By JODI RUDOREN
JERUSALEM — The Australian-Israeli man recently identified as Prisoner X
— found dead in 2010 in a maximum-security prison cell — may have been
involved in the assassination of a Hamas leader that year, an episode
that was among the most embarrassing in the history of Israel’s
intelligence agency, Mossad.
The Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida reported Thursday that Ben Zygier, who
immigrated to Israel from Australia and apparently spent a decade
working for the Mossad, was among the 26 suspects in the assassination
plot, in which Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a Hamas official, was drugged and
suffocated in his hotel room in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Al Jarida, a liberal opposition newspaper, said that Mr. Zygier had
provided the authorities in Dubai with “names and pictures and accurate
details” in exchange for protection, but Israel kidnapped him from a
hiding place and imprisoned him on charges of treason about a month
after the Jan. 19, 2010, operation.
The Dubai plot, for which Israel has never acknowledged responsibility,
led to diplomatic sanctions against Israel because fake passports from
Europe and Australia were used in the operation. Australian journalists
reported Thursday that Mr. Zygier, one of several people under
investigation by the Australian intelligence service on suspicion of
passport fraud, was arrested just before he was set to disclose Israeli
secrets about the passports to the Australian government or the news media.
The reports quoted a security official with knowledge of the case as
saying that Mr. Zygier “may well have been about to blow the whistle,
but he never got the chance.”
The Israeli prime minister’s office and the Justice Ministry declined to
comment on the emerging details in a case that has dominated the news
here for days, more than two years after what appeared to be the suicide
of a man known only as Prisoner X was revealed in local news reports
that the government immediately quashed.
Politicians, journalists and human rights advocates have questioned the
appropriateness of My. Zygier’s secret detention; the circumstances
around his death by hanging, which was ruled a suicide despite his cell
having been under constant surveillance; and the extraordinary court
order that banned local reporting on the entire episode.
“The Prisoner X affair is a classic story of Israeli failure,” read the
headline over a column by Amir Oren in the left-leaning daily newspaper
Haaretz. “The most sensitive agencies aren’t functioning,” Mr. Oren
wrote. “In its 65th year, the State of Israel still doesn’t control the
The news blackout was only partially lifted Wednesday evening and may
have done more damage than it prevented. Much of the outrage revolved
around reports, none of them true, that Prisoner X was denied visitors
and that a lawyer, his family and the Australian Embassy were never
informed of his detention.
On Thursday, a lawyer hired by the family said he had met with Mr.
Zygier a day or two before his death to discuss a plea bargain. “The
crimes he was suspected of were serious,” the lawyer, Avigdor Feldman,
told Israel’s Channel 10 news, refusing to elaborate. “He denied the
charges,” Mr. Feldman added.
In a separate interview with Army Radio, Mr. Feldman said that Mr.
Zygier, a lawyer who worked for a year at a prominent Israeli firm, “had
been informed that he could very likely expect to be sentenced to an
extremely lengthy prison term and to be shunned by his family — and this
affects a person’s soul.”
It is unclear how a Mossad agent who had revealed details to a foreign
government about an assassination, particularly one as fraught as the
Mabhouh affair, would be eligible for a plea bargain. But if the secrets
had not yet been shared, and they were limited to information regarding
passport fraud rather than murder, a reduction in charges might be more
realistic, experts said.
Mr. Feldman said that Mr. Zygier, who was 34 and whose second child, a
girl, was born four days before his death, had not shown any suicidal
signs. “He sounded rational and focused and he spoke to the point,” the
lawyer told Army Radio. “He did not display any special feeling of
Mr. Feldman was one of many in Israel who called for further inquiry
into Mr. Zygier’s death. “Those responsible for him should have taken
clear steps to watch over him,” Mr. Feldman said.
In Australia on Thursday, the foreign minister revealed that his
government had learned of Mr. Zygier’s detention on Feb. 24, 2010,
contrary to an earlier ministry statement that it had been unaware until
the family requested repatriation of his remains in late December. The
minister, Bob Carr, declined to say whether the government knew the
specific charges, saying only that officials were informed that Mr.
Zygier had been detained “in relation to serious offense under Israeli
national security legislation.”
Australia was one of several countries whose relations with Israel were
strained by the revelations that the Dubai authorities made after the
assassination of Mr. Mabhouh, a founder of Hamas’s military wing who
played a role in the kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers in
1989 and who helped supply Hamas with weapons from Iran.
In a confidential diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks, Australia’s
Foreign Ministry told the United States Embassy in Canberra that the
Dubai affair had made a coming United Nations vote more complicated.
“Australian officials are ‘furious’ all the way up the chain of
command,” it said. “In the wake of revelations from Dubai, the
government is in no hurry to reassure Israel of its support.”
The cable was dated Feb. 25 — one day after Mr. Carr said Australia was
notified of Mr. Zygier’s detention.
Gad Shimron, a former Mossad agent who wrote a book about the agency,
described Mr. Zygier’s case as “so unusual and so extraordinary,” but
“Throughout the Mossad’s history there are plenty of stories about
people who at one point or another behaved in a way that is so bluntly
different than the James Bond kind of manner they were expected to be,”
Mr. Shimron said in a radio interview.
Mayy El Sheikh contributed reporting from Cairo, and Myra Noveck from
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