By: Ben Lynfield
Israel has agreed to pay four million shekels (£714,000) in compensation to the family of an Australian-Israeli Mossad agent who apparently committed suicide while being held in secret detention in 2010.
The settlement with relatives of Ben Zygier, who was known as “Prisoner X” during his detention for unspecified crimes, is designed to keep their allegation of negligence from becoming a public lawsuit that could expose state secrets, the justice ministry said in a statement.
“It is possible that in the course [of a trial] details would be liable to be made public which could cause tangible damage to the security of the state,” the statement said. The justice ministry stressed that the payment was not tantamount to admitting that state was negligent in its care of Mr Zygier.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation broke the story of Mr Zygier’s secret incarceration in February. Before then, the Israeli media had been subject to a blackout on the “Prisoner X” case. A judicial inquiry later found that Mr Zygier’s death was a suicide enabled by “neglect of duty’’ on the part of those holding him.
Uri Misgav, an investigative reporter for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, said he doubted that security was the real reason for the state keeping the matter out of court. “There is at least suspicion of a cover up of failures in all aspects of this matter including recruitment, handling of him as an agent and his handling as a prisoner by the state,” he added.
The case has been an embarrassment to Israel, raising the question of whether the judiciary, which approved the secret incarceration, had acted as a rubber stamp of the security branches.