Israeli spy faced treason accusation before death

JERUSALEM — An Australian-Israeli citizen suspected of spying for Israel who died while secretly held in an Israeli jail in 2010 had been charged with grave security crimes and was considering a possible plea bargain, according to a lawyer who met with him before his death.

Avigdor Feldman said Thursday that the crimes include espionage and treason, but he declined to say what the specific charges were, citing a court-imposed gag order.

Australian media reported Friday that Australian security officials suspect the prisoner, Ben Zygier, 34, might have been about to disclose information about Israeli intelligence operations, including use of fraudulent Australian passports by the Israeli spy agency Mossad.


Zygier’s mysterious demise had been cloaked in extraordinary secrecy in Israel for more than two years, but a report by Australia’s ABC network on Tuesday led Israeli authorities to acknowledge the death late Wednesday after initially attempting to prevent local media from publishing the story.

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A statement from the Israeli State Attorney’s office did not identify the prisoner or his ­nationality, saying only that he had Israeli and foreign citizenship and was held under a false identity for security reasons.

The death was ruled a suicide six weeks ago, it said.