February 13, 2013

Strange case of Israel's Australian Prisoner X

Here's a very strange case where an Australian guy wound up in an Israeli prison totally cut off from the outside world. Apparently even his jailers didn't know who he was what he was supposed to have done.  Back in 2010 he killed himself and that could have been the end of that but word about him leaked out.

Here's The Guardian:

Like the fictional Man in the Iron Mask, Israel's infamous "Prisoner X" was allegedly held in solitary confinement in conditions of such strict secrecy that even his own jailers were told neither his name nor the crime he had allegedly committed.
The man's identity became the subject of intense speculation when he was reportedly found hanged in his cell in 2010, but the prisoner's existence has never been officially acknowledged by Israel's government, which has gone to extraordinary lengths to stifle media coverage of the case. Now, however, new evidence has been uncovered by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation [ABC] that strongly suggests Prisoner X was an Australian citizen, Ben Zygier, whom it described a Mossad agent.
Although there has been no intimation of the accusations against Zygier, commentators have suggested it could only suggest the most serious kind of security case, perhaps involving treason.
Ok, so an Australian was held prisoner by Israel without charge or trial and eventually seems to have killed himself though of course he could have been killed.  Let's just remind ourselves that this guy wasn't the only one to be held by Israel without charge or trial but that's not the point here.  This guy was a father of two from Australia and Australia is an ally of Israel.  Did the Australian government know anything about him?
Australia's department of foreign affairs and trade (Dfat) on Wednesday launched a review into how its diplomats handled the case.

The review, to be conducted by the department's secretary, Peter Varghese, was announced after it became known that certain department officers had been made aware in 2010 that Zygier was being held in jail in Israel but did not pass the information on.

"Dfat had [originally] advised that it was unaware of Mr Allen's detention in Israel," a department spokesman said. "Dfat has now advised that some officers of the department were made aware of Mr Allen's detention at the time in 2010 by another Australian agency."
Earlier the foreign minister, Bob Carr, had said consul officials were not aware of the man's circumstances until his parents asked for help in bringing his body back to Australia. Under normal circumstances foreign embassies are advised if one of their nationals is being held in prison.
So some officials knew some stuff but not the foreign minister.  So what does he do now he knows?
Commenting on ABC's disclosures, the Australian foreign minister, Bob Carr, said he was concerned by the claims. "Those allegations certainly do trouble me," he said.
"It's never been raised with me. I'm not reluctant to seek an explanation from the Israeli government about what happened to Mr Allen and about what their view of it is. The difficulty is I'm advised we've had no contact with his family [and] there's been no request for consular assistance during the period it's alleged he was in prison.
It could because I'm in the UK that ABC's own reports didn't come up prominently in the google search but there's a lot on this case including information about the family on the ABC News website.

But aside from all the questions about who the guy was and what was supposed to have done it does seem clear that he was Australian and Jewish and he died in an Israeli jail.  So what is Australia going to do about it?  My guess is they'll quietly drop it.

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