Lawyer: Zygier did not appear suicidal


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Australian-Israeli prisoner Ben Zygier — Prisoner X — did not appear suicidal the day before his death, a prominent Israeli attorney said.

Avigdor Feldman told Israeli media Thursday that he met with Zygier at the Ayalon Prison the day before he died to discuss his legal options, including a possible plea bargain. Zygier was charged with "grave crimes," which he denied, Feldman said. "I understood that he was told he was likely to face the longest possible jail term and that he was likely to be ostracized by his family," Feldman told Army Radio.

Zygier, who was known as Prisoner X, was the subject of an expose by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s "Foreign Correspondent" program, which reported Feb. 12 that he was jailed in early 2010 and apparently committed suicide in the high-security Ayalon Prison near Tel Aviv. The report suggested that he worked with Israel’s Mossad secret service.

The following day, Israel partially lifted its gag order on the case but did not name Zygier.

"Foreign Correspondent" reported that Zygier was 34 at the time of his death and had moved to Israel about 10 years earlier. He was married to an Israeli woman and had two small children. According to the progam, Zygier was found hanged in a cell with state-of-the-art surveillance systems installed to guard against suicide. Guards reportedly tried unsuccessfully to revive him. His remains were repatriated to Melbourne, where he was buried.

Zygier’s family declined to speak to the news program, which reported that friends and acquaintances approached by "Foreign Correspondent" also refused to comment.

A Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Jarida, reported Thursday that Zygier was part of the Mossad team that assassinated Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room in January 2010. Following the assassination, Dubai police officials revealed that British, French, German and Australian passports were used by the assassination team to enter the country. Al-Jarida reported that Zygier offered information on the assassination operation to the Dubai government in return for its protection.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Zygier may have offered the information to the Australian government or to the news media.

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