Zygier’s family to get NIS 4 million in settlement deal

Zygier’s family to get NIS 4 million in settlement deal

State maintains it is not responsible for Mossad agent’s suicide in an Israeli high security prison in 2010

Ben Zygier in IDF uniform (YouTube screenshot)
Ben Zygier in IDF uniform (YouTube screenshot)

The family of Australian-born Israeli Mossad agent Ben Zygier will receive NIS four million (about $1,150,000) from the state as part of a settlement agreement to compensate for his 2010 suicide in the Ayalon high security prison, Channel 2 TV reported Tuesday.

According to legal documents obtained by the news station, Zygier’s family will receive NIS 2,400,000 ($665,000) in the coming year and an additional NIS 400,000 ($110,000) annually in the four years following.

Despite Israel’s willingness to pay compensation, state representatives stressed that Israel had not assumed responsibility for Zygier’s death and did not believe Prison Service guards were at fault with regards to the Mossad agent’s suicide.

The state entered financial settlement talks with attorneys for the Zygier family aiming to prevent a more extensive civil suit against the Prison Service, Haaretz reported in July.

Zygier, a Mossad operative from Melbourne, Australia, was arrested in January 2010 on serious security-related charges. He was jailed under the name Prisoner X until he committed suicide 10 months later. The case was shrouded in secrecy until the Australian Broadcasting Corporation uncovered it in February.

German and Australian newspapers reported that Zygier was sent to Europe in 2005 to infiltrate companies dealing directly with Iran. Zygier’s mission was to try to gain access to potential informants in Iran and Syria. However, after two years, during which he was employed in the accounting division of a company, Zygier was recalled to Israel without having achieved substantial results.

Zygier, dejected, was assigned a desk job, but still hoped to find his way back into the field, Der Spiegel reported. Apparently, on his own initiative, he began trying to recruit informants in Lebanon to spy on the Hezbollah terror organization. He contacted an affiliate of the group in a Balkan state and tried to recruit him. However, the Hezbollah member succeeding in turning the tables and duped Zygier into providing information that eventually led to the arrests of a string of Israeli informants in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, after spending a year behind a desk, Zygier asked for permission to continue his academic studies in Melbourne, and in 2008 he began a graduate degree at Monash University. While studying, Zygier was apparently indiscreet about his activities with the Mossad; the agency eventually learned he was leaking details of his service, some of them inaccurate.

Zygier was recalled to Israel to face an investigation, during which details of his maverick Hezbollah operation came to light. He was subsequently arrested, incarcerated under strict secrecy, and charged with what one of his lawyers described as “serious” crimes.

Israeli authorities reportedly sought a prison sentence of up to 10 years for the offenses. A plea bargain was under discussion when Zygier, who was 34 and married with two children, entered the shower with the lights off and hung himself with a wet bed sheet on December 15, 2010.

His body was only discovered more than an hour later.

Amid myriad speculations and theories regarding aspects of the Zygier case and his alleged crimes, none of which suggested deliberate treason, Israeli authorities have remained tight-lipped over the precise details of the story.

In April, the State Attorney’s Office announced it would not press charges in Zygier’s death, saying there was not enough evidence to establish a causal link between failures in his supervision and the prisoner’s eventual death.

In its review of the judge’s investigative report, the State Attorney’s Office argued that even checks every half-hour would not have been enough to prevent a determined Zygier from taking his life. The state noted that a hanged Zygier would have died within minutes at most, far less time than the interval between periodic visual checks.

Gavriel Fiske contributed to this report

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