Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu on Sunday defended his government’s handling of an Australian-Israeli who was held under a pseudonym for months in a maximum-security prison until he committed suicide in 2010, suggesting that the threats his country faces justify the extraordinary measures and the secrecy shrouding the case.
“We are not like other countries,” Mr. Netanyahu told his cabinet, in his first public comments on the case of Prisoner X, which made headlines on at least three continents last week. “We are an exemplary democracy and maintain the rights of those under investigation,” he said. “However, we are more threatened and face more challenges; therefore, we must maintain proper activity of our security agencies.”
In the face of growing calls from politicians and the public for investigations into the prisoner’s death and a court order that barred the local news media from reporting about it for more than two years, the prime minister said, “Let the security forces do their work quietly so that we can continue to live in security and tranquillity in the state of Israel.”
Prisoner X, the subject of Israeli news reports in 2010 that were quashed by the broad court order, was identified by an Australian television report last week as Ben Zygier, a 34-year-old lawyer and father of two who grew up in the Melbourne area, immigrated to Israel as a young man, served in the military and may have worked for the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency. Arrested in February 2010, and held pending trial on charges that have been described only as serious and relating to national security, Mr. Zygier was considering a plea bargain when he apparently hanged himself with a shirt in the bathroom of his cell.
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