Israel has confirmed it held a prisoner often referred to as Prisoner X by the media due to the secrecy surrounding his identity.
Prisoner X, confirmed to have been an Australian-Israeli dual national who went by several different names, died in 2010 after apparently committing suicide.
The news emerged after the Australian ABC news network ran an investigation identifying the prisoner as Ben Zygier, also known as Ben Allen and Ben Allon. According to ABC the man was held in “a jail within a jail” built specifically to house Yigal Amir, the man who had assassinated Israel’s fifth prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. The jail, located in Ramla, is known as Ayalon and Zygier’s imprisonment was so secretive ABC said not even the guards knew who the prisoner was.
“A prisoner who was an Israeli citizen and also had foreign citizenship was held for security reasons,” Israel confirmed in a statement on Thursday. The statement said that “for security reasons the man was held under a false identity although his family was immediately informed of his arrest”. The report concluded that the man had committed suicide in his cell in 2010. “Procedures regarding the prisoner were followed by the highest officials at the ministry of justice, and the individual rights of the prisoner were retained, subject to the provisions of the law,” it said.
Israel did not confirm the identity of the man and a gag order is still in effect.
The Australian government were aware of Zygier’s detainment, but consistently denied the claim. Australian foreign affairs minister Bob Carr admitted the government knew of Zygier’s detainment as early as February 2010, adding the government had sought assurances that Zygier’s legal rights would be respected: he would have legal representation of his choice, his family would be notified, and he would not be harmed.
The Australian government were satisfied by Israel’s assurance that it would treat Zygier in accordance with his lawful rights as an Israeli citizen, assuming this meant he would be treated well.
Prior to the ABC investigation the media speculated on Prisoner X’s existence, which was vehemently denied by Israeli and Australian officials. ABC has also claimed Zygier was an Israeli secret service agent; the reasons for his arrest and detainment are unknown.
The Israeli foreign ministry was unavailable for comment.