In June 2010 Ynet, Israel’s largest online news site, posted a story on an unknown prisoner held in confinement in Ayalon Prison. The story was then removed from the site, but the account is still available in the Israeli blogosphere.
|Ben Zygiern in Israeli military uniform|
In December 2010 American blogger Richard Silverstein claimed that the prisoner was an Iranian general named Ali-Reza Asgari, supposedly abducted by the Mossad. (I copied this story on my other site, here.)
A couple of weeks later, on December 27 2010, Ynet published a short item on a prisoner who killed himself in his cell two weeks prior. Unlike similar cases of prisoners’ suicide, there was no official report of the death by the prison service. The item was also removed from the site but a screenshot and the account of the story is still available online.
Today, Tuesday, there was a follow-up. The Australian TV network ABC aired an investigative piece into the alleged identity of a prisoner who was held in Israeli without trial, before committing suicide. The report stated, based on information from correspondents, that the man was an Australian national, Ben Zygiern, whop was 34 at the time of his death and had moved to Israel about 10 years earlier. He was married to an Israeli woman and had two small children. It is understood Mr Zygier “disappeared” in early 2010, spending several months in the Prisoner X cell. Zygier’s arrest and jailing in Israel remains a mystery, but the ABC understands he was recruited by spy agency Mossad. According to ABC’s report, the man’s family refused to cooperate with the ABC investigation. The item, along with photos of the man, can be seen here.
+ 972 adds: The Israeli media published short stories based on the Australian piece this morning. Usually, the Israeli military censor allows Hebrew stories on secret issues if they are based on foreign sources. The assumption is that the information has already been made available, so there is little point in keeping it secret. Around noon the stories on the dead prisoner disappeared from the Haaretz, Globes and Walla sites.
An urgent meeting with the editors of the Israeli papers was later called by the Prime Minister’s Office. The so-called “editors’ committee” is an informal Israeli institution in which newspapers editors were given access to secret information in exchange for refraining from publishing it. According to a report in Haaretz, the meeting was called regarding an affair which “severely embarrasses” a government institution or person. Haaretz is not part of the “editors committee.”
Update: On Wednesday mroning the gag order was lifted and UIsareli papers published the report. Still the main question remain to be answered: what was it that Ben Zygier was so much of a danger to Isareli security that they put him - anonymously - away in a cell in teh Ayalon prison that beforehand had been built especially for the murderer of Yitzhak Rabin?