SYDNEY (JTA) – Australian Jewry’s highest body welcomed the announcements by the Australian and Israeli governments of further inquiries into the death of Ben Zygier, the Australian-Israeli national known as Prisoner X.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, breaking its silence on the mysterious death of Zygier, issued a statement Tuesday, one week after an Australian Broadcasting Corp. television news program claimed it had "compelling evidence" suggesting that Prisoner X was Zygier.
Zygier, a Melbourne-born graduate of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement who immigrated to Israel and reportedly worked for the Mossad, apparently committed suicide in a maximum-security Israeli prison in 2010.
“We welcome the fact that the Israeli Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee for Intelligence and the Israeli State Attorney’s office, part of the Ministry of Justice, have both announced that they will be conducting investigations into the circumstances surrounding Ben Zygier’s death,” said Council President Dr. Danny Lamm in the statement. “We also welcome the inquiries being undertaken by Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the fact that he has invited the Israeli authorities to have an input into those inquiries.
“We look forward to the official inquiries publishing concrete information about the circumstances surrounding the death of Ben Zygier in the hope that it will put further rumor and speculation to rest and bring some comfort to his still-grieving family and friends.”
Australian-Jewish leaders had stayed silent on the controversy, fearing the issue of dual loyalty would be raised in the media if they commented publicly and in an attempt to pay respect to the family, which has refrained from public comments since the story came to light on Feb. 12.
The report on the "Foreign Correspondent" program stirred a storm of speculation in the media about what Zygier knew, whether he was about to leak classified information, whether he was a Mossad agent or a double agent, and whether he committed suicide or died under more sinister circumstances.