Israel 'secretly holds second Prisoner X' in jail

  • Published
Ayalon prison near Tel Aviv, where Prisoner X committed suicide in 2010 (13 Feb)
Image caption,
The second "Prisoner X" is also reportedly held at Ayalon Prison

The existence of a second "Prisoner X" being held in top-secret conditions in an Israeli jail has prompted comments in the Israeli parliament and media.

The case was revealed in legal documents released this week concerning the original "Prisoner X", an Australian-Israeli who hanged himself in his prison cell in 2010.

He has been identified as Ben Zygier, a disgraced Mossad spy.

The second case is also said to involve a member of security services.

The Knesset's chairman of the Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, told parliamentarians the case was "extremely serious" but insisted Israeli prisoners' rights were protected.

Media reports say that the detainee has been kept at Ayalon Prison, near Tel Aviv for many years. Even the guards do not know his identity.

The windowless high security cell where the man is kept neighbours one where Mr Zygier killed himself.

Well-known lawyer Avigdor Feldman, who visited the first "Prisoner X" and specialises in security cases, said that the second prisoner faced allegations that were "worse than Ben Zygier's case".

"Without getting into details, [they are] much more grave, much more sensational, much more amazing, much more riveting," Mr Feldman told Tel Aviv radio station 103 FM.

He said only that the individual was a Jewish male who had worked for the security services.

Mystery remains

The strange circumstances of the arrest and detention of Mr Zygier were revealed in Australian news reports in February. They had been subject to reporting restrictions in Israel which have since been eased.

Israeli officials have never published the charges in the case but say the prisoner had jeopardised national security and agreed to being held in isolation while he prepared his defence.

Image caption,
Details about "Prisoner X" were revealed in the Australian media

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which broke the original story about Mr Zygier, said he was arrested after unwittingly sabotaging a top secret spy operation aimed at bringing home the bodies of Israeli soldiers missing in Lebanon.

When the case was first in the headlines, Israel's Internal Security Minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, said that there were no other hidden prisoners.

This week the minister said he stood by those comments as arrests were reported and handled by the prosecution and courts in accordance with the law. However, he admitted there were some cases that remained confidential for national security reasons.

On Monday, the Justice Ministry published a document on the first "Prisoner X" case which included a reference to the second, unidentified prisoner.

The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, cited court documents saying he had been convicted without giving information about his crime.

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