Israel partially lifts gag order on death of prisoner X
Jerusalem: Amid uproar in the international media, Israel today partially lifted a more than two years of gag order placed on the case of Prisoner X, allegedly a spy for Mossad espionage agency, admitting that a man held in maximum security prison died while in custody.
In an official statement issued by Israel's Justice Ministry it has been said that the death was ruled as a suicide but it makes no mention of the prisoner's name whom Australian ABC television network identified as Ben Zygier.
ABC aired an investigative report on Tuesday revealing that Zygier, an Australian national who was held in complete isolation at the Ayalon Prison in Ramla, had died in a high-security cell in late 2010.
The 28-minute program revealed that Zygier, who was in his 30s when he died, used the name Ben Alon while living in Israel. He was married to an Israeli woman and had two small children.
The official statement cleared for publication gives only limited details.
"For security reasons, the prisoner was held under a pseudonym, but his family was notified of the arrest immediately," the statement says.
"The prisoner was held by proxy of an arrest warrant issued by the court. The proceedings were overseen by senior officials in the Justice Ministry and he was duly represented in all the proceedings against him by attorneys Roi Belcher, Moshe Mazor and Boaz Ben-Zur", it adds.
The ministry also emphasised that the prisoner's legal rights were observed at all times, according to the law.
"The prisoner in question was found dead in his cell two years ago. Judge Daphna Blatman Kedrai, serving as President of the Rishon LeZion Magistrate's Court, ordered an inquiry into his death, in accordance with the Inquest of Death Law (1958)", the statement further adds.
"During this proceeding, a writ ordering it be held behind closed doors was issued. The order still stands," it concludes.
The Justice Ministry's statement said that six weeks ago, the investigation had ruled the prisoner's death a suicide, however, the judge recommended that the State pursue a negligence investigation in the matter.
"National security prevents the release of any other details in this case," the statement noted.
"These aspect of national security have been reviewed by the Central District Court, which decided to impose a comprehensive gag order on the case...The order was given at the request of the defense establishment, and was approved by the Justice Ministry," it stressed.
According to the investigative report, the prisoner was
found hanged in a cell which was equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance systems installed to prevent suicide.
"The case is regarded as one of the most sensitive secrets of Israel's intelligence community with the government going to extraordinary lengths to stifle media coverage and gag attempts by human rights organisations to expose the situation", ABC alleged.