Senior Australian official calls in Israeli envoy over ‘Prisoner X’

Opposition No. 2 meets Israeli ambassador over reports that prison suicide was Australian Mossad agent

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (photo credit: CC BY-SA 3.0, by BotMultichill, Wikimedia Commons)
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (photo credit: CC BY-SA 3.0, by BotMultichill, Wikimedia Commons)

Australian deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop met on Wednesday with Ambassador Yuval Rotem to discuss the “Prisoner X” episode and the reported Israeli censorship of the case.

According to an Australian television report on Tuesday, the prisoner, Melbourne native Ben Zygier, was a Mossad agent. He was found hanging from a noose by guards in Ayalon Prison in Ramle in 2010.

“If there are security considerations I can understand it,” Bishop, who serves as the opposition’s foreign affairs spokesperson, was quoted by Australia’s ABC television before the scheduled meeting. “But if it’s just about embarrassing a government agency, then that certainly requires an explanation and I’ll be seeking one.”

The ambassador reportedly promised to pass on Bishop’s concerns to the relevant authorities in Israel.

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem had no immediate comment.

Earlier on Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr ordered an internal investigation Wednesday into his ministry’s handling of the matter, ABC reported.

Carr ordered the investigation after it became clear that the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv had been informed of Zygier’s jailing but the information had not been transferred to the proper channels, according to Australian press reports.

Carr said that his office only became aware of the prisoner when the man’s family asked for assistance in bringing his body back to Australia.

Until Wednesday morning, Zygier’s family and friends had refused to comment to the media on the affair, but on Wednesday his uncle, Willy Zygier, told ABC Local Radio in Melbourne that he had “no idea what is true, what isn’t true.”

“All I know is there’s a family tragedy,” the uncle said. “Every suicide is a tragedy. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

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