Sunday, February 17, 2013

Why was Ben Zygier “suicided”?

By Shraga Elam
16 February 2013

Convincing evidence that Ben Zygier did not commit suicide has been accumulating, and of course he is not alleged to have died a natural death; so the only possibility that remains is that he was murdered. But if so, why?
As is to be expected, many reports of dubious reliability are circulating, but if we believe the lawyer Avigdor Feldman, and there is no logical reason to doubt him, the following picture emerges: after eight months in detention during which Zygier was not broken despite heavy pressure on him to agree to a plea-bargain, he met with the famous lawyer and sounded completely lucid and not suicidal. Feldman told him that he could give a legal opinion on his situation only after he saw the file. But Feldman was spared that exertion, because when he asked to see the documents he was told that his potential client had allegedly “committed suicide”, so there was no need for him to examine them.
A number of considerations arise from Feldman’s statement, the first of which is the most important question: did someone want to prevent Feldman from seeing the file because the evidence in it was weak? If Feldman’s account is accurate, then clearly there was no strong evidence against Zygier, otherwise the Mossad/prosecution would not have been so insistent on a plea-bargain. Prosecutors act like this only when they have very little confidence in the material in their possession. In other words, there was a need for the suspect to confess, and he was not willing to cooperate.
Admittedly, there are cases in which the prosecution proposes a plea-bargain in order to save time, money and effort for the court; but in such cases such heavy pressure is not applied on the suspect/accused. The suspicion that the evidence was inadequate is further strengthened by the fact that, although Zygier was supposedly unstable and loquacious, he did not break. If he really was of such weak character and the evidence against him so strong, he would have confessed, as others before him have done. For example, Zeev Avni, the spy who probably caused the greatest harm to Israel, as claimed by the man in charge of the Shin Bet investigation, Dr. Avraham Wolfensohn. Avni, a Jew of Swiss origin and a committed Communist who became a Soviet agent while he was still in Switzerland, worked for the Mossad and in the early 1950s transferred to the Soviet Union not only secret documents, but also Mossad codes. He confessed his guilt quite quickly when the legendary Issar Harel merely expressed his suspicions. Subsequently, however, he refused to provide further details despite the appalling conditions of his detention. In the end he broke only when he saw a copy of Nikita Kruschev’s speech denouncing Stalin’s crimes. Avni’s world instantly collapsed. Avni was motivated by ideology, and he was a spy with excellent training and a great deal of experience; but even though he wrote an autobiography and the interrogator Wolfensohn was willing to be interviewed on the subject, it is still not clear whether they managed to “turn” him and whether he provided misleading information to his Soviet handlers. By the way, in 2010 Putin awarded him a medal posthumously.
But back to the subject of Zygier: it seems highly likely that he reported to his Mossad superiors on the conversations he had with the Australian journalist Jason Koutsoukis as well as the Australian intelligence agency, and that both he and an Italian front-company were exposed.
Without adequate proof, someone in a position to decide apparently decided that Zygier had not withstood the Australian pressure and gave sensitive information to the journalist Koutsoukis and especially to Australian Intelligence, that was likely to embarrass Israel. That led to his arrest; but at this point it must be noted that the Australian journalist’s report in 2010 was nothing special and the name of the front-company was not disclosed, and moreover, since Zygier did not break under harsh conditions of detention and intense Israeli pressure, it stands to reason that he did not break under the much lighter pressure from the Australians either.
It is well-known in Israel that in such cases, the case for the prosecution is usually based primarily on the confession of the suspect, and in the present case too it seems that the investigating authorities were in desperate need of a confession. Apparently someone in the Mossad was flexing his muscles and did not know how to get out of the hole he had dug himself into. It is clear that at the bottom of this story stands a terrible fiasco that had to be covered up.
The question of Ziegler’s suitability as a Mossad agent is not the primary issue if at all, for there are grounds for much skepticism about the allegation that he was unsuitably talkative for such a sensitive role. The allegation appears to be intended to strengthen the suspicions that he had told the Australians about his activities in the service of the Mossad, thereby complicating relations between Israel and Australia.
Apparently the first very serious mistake was made when Zygier was instructed to get three more Australian passports under different names. That is what provoked the suspicions against him (in Australia, a land of immigration, one can take out a passport with a different name once a year). Koutsoukis claims that in 2009 he received information about Zygier from the Australian intelligence agency, and it would not be difficult for someone with access to certain databases to find additional information. The blogger Yehuda Blau discovered even after the report on Ben Zygier was broadcast on Australian television “that X had a profile page on the Pipl website – that he owned an Israeli company – but that page was removed from the Web before the publication of the investigation in Australia. It was very surprising. Then, through the Google cache, I found that the page had existed on 28 January, and that X lived in Milan in Italy, and it turned out that someone had tried to conceal that important detail and deleted the page. He did not imagine that someone would dig there and find what had been concealed.”

With the information that Zygier lived in Italy, it is a simple matter to access the database of the Italian registry of companies and find out if Zygier was active in a company and what that company did. In other words, such facts could be found with relative easily without Zeigler telling the Australians anything.  
A responsible lawyer who looked into Zygier’s file would have had to have quickly discovered the weakness of the evidence, and that what had occurred was a terrible blunder on the part of the Mossad, which had acted carelessly and amateurishly.
That is probably a strong reason to kill someone. No more logical reason is apparent, for it is hard to presume that if they had released Zygier he would have run the media to tell them what had happened to him.

Translated from Hebrew by George Malent

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Shraga, very interesting info. I would like to think Zygier's death was a work accident. Somebody was working on him untill he snapped into utimely death. In his soft and secure cell. Either way, a terrible mess.