Israeli Justice Official: ‘Prisoner X’ Agreed to Take on Pseudonym
The the controversial Prisoner X, who has dominated the headlines in Israel and Australia in recent days, was “imprisoned under another name not just to protect state security, but also to protect the prisoner himself,” an Israeli Justice Ministry official told Israel Hayom Thursday.
Ben Zygier, a dual Israeli-Australian citizen and suspected Mossad agent, reportedly committed suicide in a high security prison cell in Israel in 2010 under the assumed identity Prisoner X. Publishing his name “could have endangered both his life and his family,” and Zygier “agreed to be held under a pseudonym,” said the Justice Ministry official, who declined to be named.
“His family was notified concurrently with his arrest, he was represented by a lawyer, an indictment was filed against him that was approved by the most senior judicial officials, he stood a routine criminal trial at a district court, and, unfortunately, during the course of the proceedings, he committed suicide,” the official said.
The official stressed that there are no unidentified prisoners in Israel, only prisoners who, for security reasons, are held under assumed identities, at times even with the prisoners’ consent—as was the case with Zygier.
In an interview with Army Radio, former senior Mossad official Rafi Eitan commented on the affair, saying “Israel is in the midst of an ongoing war that requires technology of some form.” The concealment of a prisoner’s identity, he said, is one of the tools that Israel has adopted in efforts to protect itself.
“The very exposure of the existence of this prisoner and the photos of him that are widely distributed can lead to the exposure of people that he worked with or had contact with and who worked together with him for us,” Eitan said.
“Israel is an island in a hostile sea of countries that are, sadly, still stuck in the 14th century,” he added. “The threat against Israel is ongoing and real and therefore there is no other choice—such mechanisms need to be implemented by our intelligence services despite reports in the global media.”