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Prisoner found dead a suspected spy for Israel

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By The Washington Post
Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, 9:57 p.m.

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 weighing a possible plea bargain, according to a lawyer who met with him shortly before his death.

The lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, said on Thursday that the crimes included espionage and treason, but he declined to cite the specific charge. He cited a court-imposed gag order.

Australia's media reported Friday that Australian security officials suspect that the prisoner, identified as Ben Zygier, 34, might have been about to disclose information about Israeli intelligence operations, including the 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 led Israeli authorities to acknowledge the death late Wednesday after initially attempting to prevent local media from publishing the story.

A statement from Israel's State Attorney's office did not identify the prisoner or his nationality, saying only that he had Israeli and foreign citizenship and had been held under a false identity for security reasons. The statement added that the prisoner's family was notified immediately of his arrest and that he had been represented by lawyers.

The prisoner was found dead in his cell about two years ago. A court-ordered investigation was held, and the death was ruled a suicide six weeks ago. A statement added that the case is being examined for possible negligence.

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