Australia pressing Israel for fuller details on 'Prisoner X'

SYDNEY (AFP) - The Australian government said on Tuesday it was continuing to push Israel for a fuller explanation into the arrest, detention and suicide of Australian-Israeli Mossad agent Ben Zygier.

Mr Zygier, known as "Prisoner X", was found hanged in a supposedly suicide-proof cell at a Tel Aviv jail in 2010 with reports this week saying he was imprisoned after passing secrets to Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr said Canberra was continuing its dialogue with Israel about the case.

"I'm not aware that there has been a comprehensive accounting for what has happened," he told ABC radio.

"What gave rise to his arrest, his detention, his suicide?"

After conducting its own "internal investigations", German news weekly Der Spiegel said this week the tips Mr Zygier, 34, gave to Hezbollah led to the arrest of at least two people spying for Israel.

It said Mr Zygier - who was raised in Melbourne but moved to Israel about a decade before his death - was ordered back to Israel from Europe in 2007 because his bosses were unhappy with his work.

In 2008 he took a leave of absence, Spiegel said, and returned to Melbourne to finish his studies after trying to recruit new agents for Israel in a bid to restore his standing with his bosses.

In the process he reportedly came in contact with Hezbollah supporters and while trying to convince them to work for Mossad, disastrously spilled highly sensitive information.

This included the names of Lebanese nationals Ziad al-Homsi and Mustafa Ali Awadeh, who were arrested in May 2009 on charges of spying for Israel and later sentenced to several years of hard labour.

Mr Zygier was suspected of using his Australian passport to spy for Israel, focusing attention on Israel's recruitment of agents with foreign travel documents, and Mr Carr said he was also awaiting answers on this issue.

"That would create risk for all Australians who are travelling," he said.

"So Australia's got a clear interest, a distinct point of view on this, an objection to Australian passports being used by dual citizens who are off working for a foreign intelligence agency.

"We have asked them for all information relevant to Australia on this and we will continue to do that," he added.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.