Prisoner X hanged himself with a bed sheet, Israeli report says

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Dual Israeli-Australian citizen and suspected spy Ben Zygier hanged himself in his Israeli cell’s bathroom using a bed sheet, an Israeli investigation into his death concluded.

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Israel’s Justice Ministry on Tuesday released to the Israeli media part of the report on its investigation into Zygier’s 2010 death, which has been labeled a suicide.

The decision to release the findings came after several Israeli news outlets filed a petition in Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court asking the court to lift the gag order on the investigation.

Judge Daphna Blatman Kedrai in her report determined that Zygier committed suicide in his solitary confinement cell and that there is evidence of negligence on the part of Israel Prison Service officials.

“The duties placed on the Israel Prison Service in connection to the deceased were particularly complex given the cloak of secrecy, gaps in information and compartmentalization,” the report said. “Nevertheless, orders to prevent suicide were given and the elements entrusted with guarding the prisoner were aware of them. These orders were not upheld and a ‘window of opportunity’ was used by the deceased to commit suicide.”

Some details were withheld at the request of the state, in part so that it would not interfere with an investigation into possible negligence by prison officials. Kedrai ordered the state to release additional information on the case in 21 days.

Zygier, who was known as Prisoner X as well as Ben Alon, was the subject of an expose by the Australian news program “Foreign Correspondent” on Feb. 12 reporting that he was jailed in early 2010 and apparently committed suicide in the high-security Ayalon Prison near Tel Aviv. The report suggested that he worked with the Mossad.