Israel to conduct 'intensive' probe of prisoner case
By Hazel Ward ,AFPJERUSALEM -- Israel's parliament is to conduct what it called an “intensive” inquiry into the arrest and death of a jailed Australian-Israeli with Mossad links, a parliamentary spokesman said on Sunday.
February 19, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
“The intelligence subcommittee of the (Knesset) foreign affairs and defense committee decided to hold an intensive inquiry into all aspects of the affair of the prisoner found dead in his cell,” the committee spokesman Asaf Doron said.
He gave no further details.
The decision followed days of media frenzy sparked by the exposure last week of the identity of the man known as Prisoner X — an Australian immigrant called Ben Zygier who worked for Israel's Mossad spy agency.
According to a story broken last Tuesday by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Zygier was found hanged in his cell in Ayalon prison near Tel Aviv in December 2010, in a case Israel went to extreme lengths to cover up.
It imposed a total media blackout on the case but was forced to ease the restrictions after the story made headlines across the world, rendering the local gag order ineffective.
In his first comment on the affair, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that shining too much light on intelligence activities can “badly damage” state security.
“Overexposure of security and intelligence activities can damage, and damage badly, state security and that is why in every debate we must not underestimate the security interest,” he said in remarks to the cabinet communicated by his office.
“In the reality in which Israel lives, it must be a central interest,” he said in a thinly veiled criticism of media speculation as to what might have been Zygier's precise intelligence role and the nature of his alleged offence.
Netanyahu spoke shortly after Canberra said it was seeking answers over the circumstances of Zygier's death.
“I ask everyone: let the security forces continue to work quietly in order that we can carry on living in peace and security in Israel,” he said.
“We need to ensure that we protect the normal working of our security branches,” he added, expressing “complete trust” in Israel's security forces and legal system.
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said his office was preparing a report looking at all communications between Australia and Israel, including between its security agencies.