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Intelligence officer dies in military prison under unclear circumstances

Suicide suspected in heavily censored case, first revealed last month, involving a serviceman indicted for an undisclosed offense

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

The military's nearly completed Prison 10 complex, built to replace the Israel Defense Forces' existing British Mandate-era prisons. (Israel Defense Forces)
The military's nearly completed Prison 10 complex, built to replace the Israel Defense Forces' existing British Mandate-era prisons. (Israel Defense Forces)

A soldier who died in a military prison last month was an intelligence officer, the Israel Defense Forces allowed publications to report this week, though many aspects of the case remain heavily censored.

In the midst of the fighting last month, the Israel Defense Forces announced that a soldier in its newly opened Neve Tzedek prison had died under unclear circumstances.

The serviceman was found in serious condition in his cell on the night of May 16 and later pronounced dead in what military officials said was a suspected suicide, though no official cause of death had been designated.

Everything else about the case — the soldier’s identity and the crimes he was charged with — remained classified. This week, however, following an appeal by the Ynet news site and other outlets, the military allowed it to be revealed that the serviceman was an officer in an intelligence unit who had been indicted last September.

On Thursday, military also released that the officer had not been charged with espionage or treason, nor had he been in contact with a foreign agent and was not the asset of one.

All other aspects of the case, including the precise unit the officer served in and the nature of the alleged crime, cannot be published due to both an order from the military censor and two court-issued gag orders.

According to Haaretz, the serviceman was buried in a civilian cemetery plot and will not be recognized as a fallen soldier.

The IDF confirmed that this was the case as the soldier had been formally discharged from the army while in prison and was thus not eligible for a military funeral.

The soldier was described by people who worked with him as a computer prodigy, beginning to work in programming as a teenager.

“[He] is one of the best engineers I have ever met. I had the privilege of recruiting him and being his ‘boss’ for 18 months, when he was only 17 years old. During that time he was INCREDIBLE! We managed to learn all the different aspects of our system and were able to improve most of them,” one former employer wrote about the serviceman.

Another described him as having as much talent with computers as Michael Jordan had with basketball. “That feeling, of seeing a talent so extraordinary, is something we should consider ourselves lucky to witness, and I consider myself that kind of lucky,” he wrote.

As the soldier died in a Military Police-run prison, his death will be investigated by the IDF’s internal affairs unit.

Through a lawyer, the soldier’s family said they were mourning their son, and were waiting for the results of the probe.

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