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Australian FM confirms Ben Zygier worked for Israeli government

JTA

March 6, 2013 | 8:28 am

Ben Zygier, the Australian-Israeli dual national known previously as Prisoner X, worked for the Israeli government, Australia's foreign minister confirmed for the first time.

But Minister of Foreign Affairs Bob Carr at a news conference Wednesday refused to say whether Zygier worked for the Mossad, Israel's secret service, as has been speculated since an Australian Broadcasting Corp. investigation last month linked Zygier to the infamous Prisoner X.  The Melbourne native, a graduate of Zionist youth movements in Australia, had moved to Israel in 1994.

Releasing the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's internal report into the mysterious suicide of Zygier while in custody in a maximum security prison in Israel in December 2010, Carr criticized the Australian authorities handling of the case as ''unsatisfactory."

He also warned that Australia's government will react angrily if there is proof that Zygier, who held three Australian passports under three aliases, abused the integrity of Australian passports.

''We won't settle for Australian passports being abused in this way," Carr said.

"If the world thinks Australian passports are routinely debauched by another country, then Australians presenting their passports all over the world could well place their lives in danger. We can't live with that."

According to the report, Australian intelligence agents found out about Zygier's arrest on Feb. 16, 2010, and told senior officials just over a week later. It said ASIO, Australia's spy agency, told officials in then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's office and then-Foreign Minister Stephen Smith's office on March 1, 2010.

But Rudd and Smith said Wednesday that they had no recollection of being briefed on the Zygier case.

The report said Zygier received more than 50 visits from family in the 10 months he was incarcerated before he apparently committed suicide on Dec. 15, 2010.

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