20 February 2013

Prisoner X

Prisoner X by bobmendo
Prisoner X, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

The story is unfolding here in Australia although it was well known to many the last 2+ years. Here from an email from Michael Danby, Melbourne Ports, sending out the information from Andrew Bolt.

Believing the worst of Israel: Carr and The Age
by Andrew Bolt
FEBRUARY17,2013(7:21am)

Knowing a little more three days later, let’s review the Age report three days ago of the death of “Prisoner X”:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure to answer questions over allegations that an Australian citizen committed suicide while being held in solitary confinement in the country’s highest-security prison.

Fact check: ”Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure to answer question” rather personalises the issue by focussing on a hate figure of the Left, but let’s move on…

The man known as “Prisoner X” was held in conditions of such strict secrecy in Israel’s Ayalon Prison that not even the jail’s staff knew his name or the crime he was alleged to have committed, the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program said on Tuesday.

It named “Prisoner X” as 34-year-old Ben Zygier and said it appeared the former Melbourne man had been recruited by the Israeli spy agency Mossad before his disappearance in early 2010. He had moved to Israel 10 years before that, changing his name to Ben Alon and marrying a local woman with whom he had two children, the program said....

The Israeli Government has gone to extreme lengths to suppress the story since news of Prisoner X’s arrest first appeared in 2010, with a judge issuing a gag order that prevented any mention of the case, or even the fact that there was a gag order, the ABC reported.

At the time, the revelation that a prisoner was being held in total seclusion in a private wing of Ayalon Prison for an undisclosed crime prompted human rights groups to launch a campaign to force Israel to reveal his identity.

“He is simply a person without a name and without an identity who has been placed in total and utter isolation from the outside world,” a prison official was quoted as saying at the time...

Fact check: Zygier’s family was notified immediately on his arrest and hired a lawyer to defend him. Israel also briefed Australian diplomats on Zygier’s arrest 10 months before his death and informed them of his alleged ‘’serious offences under Israeli national security legislation’’.

“It is insupportable that, in a democratic country, authorities can arrest people in complete secrecy and disappear them from public view without the public even knowing such an arrest took place,” the Association for Civil Rights in Israel wrote in June 2010.

Fact check: ”Complete secrecy” is false, and “disappear them” an exaggeration. True, the public at large did not know of Zygier’s arrest. But his own family did, as did anyone they may have told, including lawyers.

Human Rights Watch has also raised the alarm at the secrecy surrounding Mr Zygier’s arrest, incarceration and death, warning that Israel was required to notify another country if it takes one of its citizens into detention and if that citizen dies in detention.

Fact check: A false allegation by implication. That indeed occurred. Foreign Minister Bob Carr has conceded Australia was indeed notified of Zygier’s arrest 10 months befre his death.

It should notify the person promptly of any charges against them, ensure they had access to a lawyer and to someone outside detention, said Human Rights Watch’s senior Middle East researcher, Bill van Esveld, who is based in Jerusalem.

Fact check: Another false allegation by implication. Zygier had a lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, who met him in jail and was preparing a plea bargain.

“If the allegations are correct and Israel denied knowledge of his detention, then that is a ‘disappearance’ under international law,” Mr van Esveld said.

Fact check: False allegation by implication. Israel did not deny knowledge of Zygier’s arrest. It informed his family and the Australian Government.

He noted that while Palestinian prisoners were regularly detained without charge and often denied access to a lawyer for an unacceptable period of time, it was rare for Israeli prisoners to experience this kind of treatment.

Fact check: False allegation. Zygier was not denied a lawyer.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr described the allegations as troubling.

“It’s never been raised with me. I’m not reluctant to seek an explanation from the Israeli government about what happened to Mr Allen and about what their view of it is,” he told the ABC…

A spokesman for Senator Carr said on Wednesday that the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv was unaware that Mr Zygier was detained in Israel until contacted by his family in 2010 when he died.

Fact check: Zygier’s arrest may not have been raised with Carr, but his department had indeed been told. Carr has since admitted “The Israeli government ... advised the Australian government”. His predecessor as Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith, has refused to say if he’d known of Zygier’s arrest.

“Even if Prisoner X has now been identified, his crime, however, remains a mystery, although it has been widely speculated that it would have involved treachery to warrant such extreme measures.”

The family asked for assistance to repatriate his body but did not ask for anything else...

Observation: The silence of Zygier’s unfortunate family suggests much.

The Australian government is now looking at the material raised by Foreign Correspondent to determine whether it warrants further action, such as making a representation to Israel.

“It’s common but not universal that countries do let us know [that they have detained an Australian national],” the spokesman said.

Fact check: Again, a false allegation by implication. The Australian Government had been told, and the real problem was the Australian Government’s poor internal communications.

Or perhaps the problem was with Carr himself. It is plain that he has been antagonistic towards Israel and only too ready to believe the worst of it. That has been obvious again in his initial reation to this case.

It also seems to be obvious that a similar attitude to Israel informed this Age report.

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