AUSTRALIA has ordered an inquiry into the mysterious case of "Prisoner X", a Melbourne-born Mossad agent who was found hanged in an Israeli jail.
Bob Carr, the Australian foreign minister, was forced to correct an earlier statement that officials were unaware of the case of Ben Zygier, an Australian citizen who emigrated to Israel in 2000, adding to suspicion that there was a cover-up.
He said diplomats were made aware of Mr Zygier's imprisonment in 2010. Previously, he said consular officials were only asked to help with the repatriation of the body at the end of that year.
The disclosure added to speculation that a news blackout on the case ordered by Israel was in part intended to spare Australia's blushes. Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, asked editors to show restraint, not on security grounds but to prevent embarrassment to a state agency and a "foreign government".
Mr Zygier, named "Prisoner X" by the Israeli media, was found hanging in Israel's Ayalon prison after several months of solitary confinement. His cell, which was monitored 24 hours a day by CCTV and prison wardens who were not told his name, was considered suicide proof.
Mr Zygier, who was married to an Israeli woman and had two children, had an Australian passport under the name Ben Allen.
Prisoner X's identity was revealed by Australia's public broadcaster this week, triggering frantic efforts by Israel to stop the media publishing more details. Mr Zygier had reportedly been under investigation by Australia's domestic intelligence agency, ASIO, over attempts to gain Australian passports for Mossad's use.
A former Israeli intelligence officer said he could not see what offence had been so grave to justify Mr Zygier's treatment.
"One of the things that makes this case so hard to understand is that Mossad takes protecting Jewish people very seriously," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)