Israel secretly holds 'Prisoner X2' for security breach: lawyer

JERUSALEM Tue Jul 9, 2013 9:56am EDT

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has secretly jailed a member of its security services for a grave offence, a prominent Israeli lawyer said on Tuesday, describing the case as riveting and sensational.

The revelation emerged from a memorandum released by the Justice Ministry on Monday on a previous secret detainee, Australian Ben Zygier, an immigrant and disgraced Mossad spy who committed suicide in prison in 2010.

Avigdor Feldman, a lawyer who specializes in matters of national security and formerly advised Zygier - dubbed "Prisoner X" by the media - said in a radio interview that he knew of a second detainee, whom he described as "Prisoner X2".

Feldman declined to elaborate on the second inmate other than to say he was male, Jewish, held Israeli citizenship and had worked for the government's secret services.

Asked how the second detainee's alleged offenses compared with Zygier's, Feldman told Tel Aviv radio station 103 FM: "Without getting into details? Much more grave. Much more sensational. Much more amazing. Much more riveting."

The Zygier case went public in February after it was reported in his native Australia, and the news of a second prisoner will expose the intelligence services to more, unwelcome press attention.

Israeli officials have not published the charges against Zygier, saying only that he had endangered national security and had been held in isolation, with his own agreement, to avoid exposing him to media scrutiny while he prepared his defense. One newspaper reported that he had faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Various other media reports speculated that Zygier had betrayed Mossad operations in Dubai or Lebanon, potentially leading to the capture of Israeli agents abroad.

Feldman, in another radio interview earlier this year, said that Zygier had denied the allegations against him but had been considering a plea bargain with a reduced punishment.

After Australia's ABC television aired the Zygier affair, Israel imposed court gag orders on reporting it locally. The gags, which were enforced by military censors, have eased since.

The Justice Ministry on Monday published a previously redacted report on Zygier's suicide, which included mention of the second, unidentified, detainee, held in another wing of the same prison. The ministry provided no further information.

(Writing by Dan Williams, Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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