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Saturday 20 September 2014

Netanyahu insists agent had no Australian contact

Robert Tait Jerusalem

Published 20/02/2013 | 04:00

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Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

BENJAMIN Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, deepened the mystery surrounding the suspected Mossad agent, Ben Zygier, by rejecting reports that he had contact with Australian intelligence before his arrest.

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"Following recent publications, the prime minister's office stresses that [the late] Mr Zygier had no contact with the Australian security services and organisations," a statement from Mr Netanyahu's office said.

It was his most definitive statement yet on what has become known as the "Prisoner X" affair and the first time that he has mentioned Mr Zygier by name. Israel has tried to hush up the case and conceal the man's identity.

Mr Zygier, who held Israeli and Australian citizenship, was identified by Australia's ABC television network last week as a Mossad agent found dead in his high-security cell in Ayalon Prison in Ramla, near Tel Aviv, in December 2010. It said he had been incarcerated 10 months earlier.

The network later reported that he had betrayed top-secret Mossad operations to the Australian domestic intelligence agency, which had become aware of his Israeli intelligence work after he made multiple passport applications under different assumed names.

Mr Netanyahu, pictured, dismissed that suggestion and said Israel and Australia had "excellent co-operation and complete transparency".

A newly released inquest report said Zygier hanged himself using a bed sheet.

The detail emerged after a court agreed to loosen a gag order on the circumstances of his the death.

"The deceased was found hanging in the shower of his detention cell, with a sheet around his neck tied to the window of the bathroom," stated a document released by Rishon LeZion magistrates' court.

The inquest also said the Israeli prison service could be guilty of "negligence", but Judge Dafna Blatman-Kardai ruled out foul play. Entry to the cell was monitored by cameras, she said, and examination of footage showed no one "intervened in causing the death".

Zygier was found dead despite being supposedly subject to round-the-clock surveillance from in-cell cameras. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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