Israel rattled by death of 'secret' Australian prisoner: Channel

An Australian man committed suicide in a high-security Israeli jail in 2010 after being held for months in great secrecy, Australia's ABC channel said Tuesday, throwing new light on a case that has rattled Israel.

The unsourced ABC story named the man, known previously only as "prisoner x", as Ben Zygier. It added that it "understood" the 34-year-old from Melbourne had been previously recruited by the Israeli spy agency Mossad.

Within hours of the report surfacing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office summoned Israeli editors to ask them not to publish a story "that is very embarrassing to a certain government agency", Israel's Haaretz newspaper said.

Shortly, all reference to the Australian report vanished from Israeli news sites including Haaretz.

Members of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem asked Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman to confirm if the report was true and demanded to know if other prisoners were being held in secret.

ABC said Zygier, who came from a prominent Jewish family in Australia, had moved to Israel 10 years before his death and had taken on the name Ben Alon. He married an Israeli woman and the pair had two children.

The Australian television channel gave no reason for his imprisonment, speculating only that it would have had to concern espionage and sensitive state secrets.

The man's family in Israel and Australia did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

ABC said Zygier's imprisonment was so secret that not even his guards knew his name. He was allegedly held in Ayalon Prison near Tel Aviv and found hanging in his cell in December 2010.

Funeral notices from Australia show that his body was flown back to Melbourne and that he was buried on December 22.

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