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Offering a different version, Australia’s Fairfax Media said Australian security officials suspected Zygier may have been about to disclose Israeli intelligence operations, including the use of fraudulent Australian passports, either to the Canberra government or to the media before his arrest.
“His interrogators told him he could expect lengthy jail- time and be ostracized from his family and the Jewish community,” Feldman said. “There was no heart string they did not pull, and I suppose that ultimately brought about the tragic end.”
In a separate interview Feldman appeared to inadvertently confirm the man was a Mossad spy.
“The Mossad liaison I was in touch with informed me that, unfortunately, my client was no longer alive,” Feldman told Kol Barama Radio. Israel has neither denied nor confirmed that “Prisoner X” was a Mossad officer.
The jailhouse suicide of Zygier has focused attention on the agency’s recruitment of foreign-born Jews who could spy under cover of their native passports.
Australian media have reported that Zygier had been one of at least three Australian-Israeli dual nationals under investigation by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation over suspicions of espionage for Israel.
Australia complained to Israel in 2010 after Dubai said forged Australian passports were used by the Mossad squad. Mahbouh’s killers, authorities in the emirate said, also had also had British, Irish, French and German passports.
Mossad is widely reputed to have stepped up its shadow war in recent years against Iran’s nuclear programme, Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrillas, suspected nuclear procurement by Syria and arms smuggling to Palestinians through Dubai, Sudan and Egypt.
In an apparent reversal from previous statements, Australian Foreign minister Bob Carr said on Thursday his ministry had known about Zygier’s jailing in Israel as early as February 2010. On Wednesday he said Australian diplomats in Israel only found out about the detention after his death in custody later that year.
Israel’s Justice Ministry said a court has ordered an inquiry into possible negligence in Zygier’s death.
Zygier, who came from a prominent Jewish family in Australia and was also known as Ben Alon and Ben Allen, was buried in Melbourne. He had been married with two young children. His relatives have declined all comment on the case.