Standort: / Meldung: "The mystery of Prisoner X"

Kate Farmer

Cutting to the chase

18. 2. 2013 - 15:11

The mystery of Prisoner X

Reality Check: Prisoner X, food industry scandal, US climate protests, the evils of fertilizers, ASAP science.

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The strange, twisting and turning story of "Prisoner X" is undoubtedly the stuff that great spy movies are made of; only this time, it's for real.

The fact that Israel is now launching an inquiry into the death of Prisoner X, who hanged himself in a Tel Aviv top security jail in 2010, is just the latest episode in a story that goes back many years and spans the globe.

Ben Zygier grave


After his death, Ben Zygier was returned to Australia, where he was buried in the Chevra Kadisha Jewish Cemetery in Melbourne

Last week, the Australian public broadcaster, the ABC, identified the so called Prisoner X as Ben Zygier, and Australian-Israeli who worked as Mossad agent.

Exactly what Zygier did for Mossad is unclear, and it's unlikely Israel is going to tell us any time soon, if ever. However, two of his lines of work are widely circulating in the international media. One was in procuring Australian passports for use by other Mossad agents. Another was in running a company based in Italy, which was selling communications equipment to Iran, Syria and Lebanon, and using these contacts to gather information on these countries.

It's hard to imagine what anyone could do that would warrant Israel putting them in a high security prison, under such tight security that even their guards didn't know the prisoner's name - but this was the case. Hence the tag "Prisoner X". The general conclusion is that he leaked, or was about to leak, information to someone that would represent such an enormous threat to Israeli security that such action would be appropriate.

Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has simply offered the following explanation for the secrecy around the case. "We are not like all other countries. We are more threatened, more challenged, and therefore we have to ensure the proper activity of our security forces. Allow the security forces to work quietly so we can continue to live securely and safely.''

Providing false passports is something Mossad does routinely, and everyone knows about it. While leaking information about this might annoy his bosses, it would hardly be a threat to safety of Israelis.

However, leaking information about his activities in Iran, or even, as some are speculating, being a double agent with Iran, would certainly set off the loudest of alarm bells in Israel. According to David Witzthum, Senior Foreign Correspondent with Israeli Television, it's pretty much impossible to underestimate how seriously Israelis take the Iranian threat - from the government down to the people on the street. This is why, regardless of what comes out of the investigation into the death of Prisoner X, nothing will deflect the momentum in the underground, unofficial war against Iran.

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