Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel has denied that an Australian immigrant who
committed suicide in 2010 while jailed for security offences
had spied for his native country.
The statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office,
which oversees Israel's intelligence services, was the first
to confirm the affair concerned Ben Zygier, who was named in
an Australian TV expose last week.
One of Zygier's lawyers has since linked him to Mossad,
fanning speculation the 34-year-old Jewish man from Melbourne
had been arrested and held in isolation on suspicion of
betraying the Israeli spy agency's secrets - perhaps to
"Following many reports, the prime minister's office
emphasises that Mr. Zygier had no connection to the
Australian security services and organisations," the
It said that Israel and Australia shared "excellent
cooperation, full coordination and full transparency in
dealing with the issues on the agenda".
Zygier was held under alias to stem serious harm to national
interests, Israel says, but has not given any other details.
In a separate measure to douse speculation of foul play, an
Israeli court allowed the publication of a judge's inquiry,
completed two months ago, that said Zygier hanged himself in
The investigation showed the prisoner looped a wet sheet
around his neck, tied it to the bars of a bathroom window in
his cell and hanged himself, choking to death.
Israeli media reported the bathroom area was not covered, for
privacy reasons, by closed-circuit television cameras that
transmitted images from other parts of the isolation cell.
Ruling out foul play on the basis of medical and physical
evidence, Judge Dafna Blatman-Kardai said entry to the cell
was monitored by cameras and examination of their footage
showed no one "intervened in causing the death of the
She said his family - which has not commented publicly on the
case - agreed with the findings.
"A small amount of sedative was found in his blood. There was
no alcohol or drugs. This does not change my determination
... about the cause of death," a forensic medical expert was
quoted as saying in the judge's report.
Civil liberties groups and some lawmakers in Israel,
protesting at the state censorship restricting local
reporting on the case, have demanded to know whether Zygier's
rights were violated by his months of incarceration, isolated
from other inmates, and whether his death could have been
Those calls were echoed in Australia, where media suggested
Zygier had been suspected of betraying Mossad missions to
Canberra's spy services. Australia was angered in 2010 by the
fraudulent use of its passports in the assassination of a
Hamas arms procurer in Dubai, which the Gulf emirate blamed
In her report, the judge said there was prima facie evidence
that the Prisons Authority had been negligent, noting that it
had received special instructions on supervising the prisoner
to prevent a possible suicide.
A Justice Ministry spokesman said state prosecutors would
decide whether charges would be brought.
A source briefed on the affair told Reuters that Israel has
since installed biometric detectors in the toilet stalls of
high-risk prisoners, designed to summon guards within seconds
should they stop breathing or display other signs of
Responding to the media reports about Zygier, Israeli
Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch told
parliament on Monday that the detainee had received frequent
family visits and been "supervised by mental-health support
and treatment systems, both external and those of the Prisons
Zygier also consulted with Israeli lawyers, one of whom,
Avigdor Feldman, said he saw the married father of two
shortly before his death to discuss "grave charges" on which
he had been indicted, and the possibility of a plea bargain.
"I met with a balanced person ... who was rationally weighing
his legal options," Feldman told Israeli television last
week, adding Zygier had denied the charges against him.
"His interrogators told him he could expect lengthy jail time
and be ostracised from his family and the Jewish community.
There was no heart string they did not pull, and I suppose
that ultimately brought about the tragic end."
Feldman declined to comment on an Israeli newspaper report
that Zygier faced between 10-and-20 years in prison.
Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor on Saturday called Zygier's
death a "tragedy" but said his treatment was justified.