CANBERRA (Reuters) - A suspected Mossad agent who died in an Israeli jail in 2010 was arrested by his spymasters who believed he may have told Australian intelligence about his work with the Israeli spy agency, Australian media reported on Monday.
The Australian Broadcasting Corp said dual Australian-Israeli citizen Ben Zygier, 34, had met officers from Australia’s domestic spy agency ASIO and had given details of a number of Mossad operations.
Quoting undefined sources, the ABC, which broke the initial story about Zygier’s secret arrest and death in prison, said on one of his four trips to Australia, Zygier had also applied for a work visa to Italy.
But Mossad became concerned when it discovered Zygier had contact with the Australian spy agency, the ABC reported, adding it was worried he might pass on information about a major operation planned for Italy.
It said Zygier was one of three Australians who changed their names several times and took out new Australian passports for travel in the Middle East and Europe for their work with Mossad.
The closely guarded case has raised questions in Australia and Israel about the suspected use by Mossad of dual Australian-Israeli nationals.
Israeli lawmakers on Sunday announced plans to investigate Zygier’s death, which a judge has ruled was suicide. Australia’s Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, has initiated an inquiry into his department’s handling of the case.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday sought to reduce media attention on the case and said he “absolutely trusts” Israel’s security services and what he described as the independent legal monitoring system under which they operated.
Australia’s Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, who is in charge of ASIO, on Monday said he would not comment on intelligence matters or suggestions ASIO had exposed Zygier’s identity.
He also said he saw no need for a review of how the intelligence agencies handled the case.
“I haven’t seen any need either, for any such review to take place within the Attorney General’s Department,” he told reporters.
Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Ron Popeski