It has been two years since the prisoner died, but only now are bits of information coming to light. The case has made headlines around the world, putting both the governments of Israel and Australia on the defensive. In Tel Aviv, the affair has been treated as a state secret with a gag order, which has only recently been loosened, imposed on the media. Conspiracy theories about his fate have been plentiful, including speculation that Zygier was murdered in prison.
The man known as "Prisoner X" unwittingly caused the arrest of two Hezbollah supporters who were spying for Israel. Ben Zygier, the Australian-Israeli who allegedly was a Mossad agent, leaked highly classified information in a botched attempt to recruit a spy for the agency. Zygier, who had been returned from the field to a desk job at Mossad headquarters, was attempting to restore his reputation at the spy agency by attempting to turn an enemy into an ally.
In the end, however, Hezbollah managed to extract from him the names of two Lebanese men working for the Mossad -- Ziad al-Homsi and Mustafa Ali Awadeh -- who were arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in jail, German magazine SPIEGEL reports.
The report said Zygier started working with the Mossad in 2003 but was ordered back to Israel in 2007 because he was not delivering for the agency. He returned to Melbourne and operated independently in an attempt to restore his reputation, the magazine claimed.
But as he tried to prove his bona fides to a man linked to Hezbollah who he wanted to become a double agent, he was the one who became the double agent, leaking the classified information.
On Dec. 15, 2010, the 34-year-old father of two was found dead in his Tel Aviv cell. Reports said he hung himself.
Israeli informants have certainly changed sides in the past. But a regular Mossad employee has never done what Zygier did. It is a bitter defeat for Israel, but for Hezbollah it is one of the rare instances in which an Arab intelligence service prevailed over its Jewish counterpart. Zygier's betrayal is also a heavy blow to the Mossad because it raises doubts as to the integrity of the agency's own people -- and the manner in which it recruits employees.
By Guylain Gustave Moke
Photo Credit: AFP: Ben Zygier's tombstone