Australia's ABC is reporting that Ben Zygier, the alleged Mossad spy who killed himself in an Israeli prison two years ago, was arrested by Israel after the Israelis came to believe that Zygier had either told Australia's domestic intelligence agency about an upcoming Mossad operation out of Italy, or was about to.
"The ABC's Foreign Correspondent program understands that Zygier met with ASIO officers in Australia and gave comprehensive detail about a number of Mossad operations, including plans for a top-secret mission in Italy that had been years in the making," ABC reported on its website.
On one of four trips back to Australia before his death in 2010, Zygier applied for a visa to Italy, ABC reported. During one of those visits he had contact with ASIO, although ABC reports it is unclear who initiated the contact.
"Mossad was worried he might pass on operational methods and secrets of the organization, including information about the major Mossad operation planned for Italy," ABC alleges.
ABC reported that Zygier had set up a communications company in Europe with two other dual citizens. The company sold faulty electronic equipment to Iran and Arab states, ABC reported.
Meanwhile a senior Israeli security source told Israel's Channel 2 on Sunday that Zygier "died of shame."
"We did not persecute him," the source said.
According to news report, at the time of his death, Israel's state attorney and Zygier's defense attorneys Roi Belcher and Boaz Ben-Tzur were engaged in negotiations over a plea bargain and had already agreed on its broad outlines — even before Zygier ended his life. Channel 2 also reported the details of the plea bargain. Ben-Zur refused to comment on the news report. The Justice Ministry also refused to respond, saying "the report is not within the purview of what we can say given the gag-order in the case."
Last week reports described how attorney Avigdor Feldman visited Zygier in Ayalon Prison two days before he ended his life, after Zygier's family had asked him to advise Zygier on matters pertaining to the plea bargain. "He was standing at a legal crossroads and wanted my opinion," Feldman said in an interview to Army Radio. "Because I was not familiar with the case, I sat and patiently listened to him. He appeared rational and focused, and spoke in a matter of fact way. He did not seem to be overly emotional or wallowing in self-pity."
Meanwhile, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein is "favorably considering" allowing publication this week of the decision of Daphna Blatman-Kedrai, the president of the Rishon Letzion Magistrate's Court. A month and a half ago, after a prolonged investigation, the judge concluded that Zygier had definitely committed suicide in his prison cell about two years ago. At the behest of Blatman-Kedrai, the state attorney is investigating whether there should be an indictment served for dereliction of duty in the prisoner's suicide.
At the start of Sunday's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Zygier affair for the first time. "I completely trust the State of Israel's security forces. They work devotedly and with the utmost commitment to ensure that we are able to live in this country. I also completely trust the State of Israel's judicial authorities.
"Israel's security forces and intelligence agencies operate under the full supervision of judicial authorities which are completely independent. Amid the balance between guarding our security and obeying the law, we also preserve freedom of expression, but overexposure of security and intelligence operations can do harm, sometimes even great harm, to national security. Thus, in every discussion of the matter, one should not take security interests lightly, and in the reality in which the State of Israel exists this must be a central concern."
"We are not like other countries," the prime minister said. "We are an exemplary democratic country that safeguards the rights of suspects as well as individual rights no less than any other country. But we are also more threatened, more challenged, and so we have to safeguard the proper functioning of our security forces. Therefore, I am asking everyone to let the security forces do their work quietly, so that we can continue to live in securely in Israel."
Amid rumors that Australian intelligence was responsible for exposing Ben Zygier and "burning" him as an agent, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr announced on Sunday that his office would conduct an independent investigation into the affair. The investigation will cover the circumstances that led to Zygier's death.
"We have asked the Israeli government for a contribution to that report," Carr told reporters.
"We want to give them an opportunity to submit to us an explanation of how this tragic death came about,'' Carr said.
Carr said that foreign office chief, Peter Varghese, was preparing a report which would "canvass all the consular contact between Australia and between Israel'' including contact between security agencies.
But Australian Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said on Monday he doesn't see a need for his department to investigate what Australia's intelligence organizations might have known about the case.
"As I say I don't comment on intelligence matters, but I haven't seen any need either for any such review to take place within the attorney-general's department," he said.
"As the foreign minister said, he's called for a review of the way in which the Department of Foreign Affairs dealt with — what I do need to say is — a family tragedy for the family concerned and that review will be forthcoming soon."