14 Feb 2013

Israel's Prisoner X driven to suicide by interrogation, lawyer suggests

Ben Zygier – the man known as Israel's Prisoner X, an Australian-Israeli citizen who died in mysterious circumstances while secretly imprisoned after an apparent career in the Mossad — had denied the "serious" allegations against him and was discussing a plea bargain just before his death.

In the latest twist in a story that has engulfed both Israel and Australia, Zygier's lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, told Israel's Channel 10 on Thursday that he had seen him the day before his death in 2010 and that he had appeared rational. He had, however, been put under intense emotional pressure by those interrogating him, which Feldman speculated could have contributed to his suicide.

Ben Zygier aka Prisoner X

"His interrogators told him he could expect lengthy jail time and be ostracised from his family and the Jewish community. There was no heartstring they did not pull, and I suppose that ultimately brought about the tragic end," he said. Speaking on Thursday, Feldman said: "I met a balanced person … He was rationally considering legal options.I can say that he denied the charges … The crimes he was suspected of were serious … He didn't admit to anything."

In one of the fiercest denunciations yet of the behaviour of the authorities and media in the Prisoner X affair, the veteran liberal Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, condemned the state's ability to "disappear" people with the collusion of the press and courts.

"Alongside the organisations of darkness was the collaborating judicial system, the newspaper editors who were keen to bring back the days of the disgraceful editors' committee, the newspapers and the broadcast channels that only two days ago were trying to suppress the affair — all the agents, lawyers, jailers, censors, police and investigators who knew and kept quiet."

The Guardian