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No more prisoners held incognito in Israel: minister

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

An Israeli minister on Tuesday insisted there were no more anonymous prisoners being held incognito after the exposure of a top-secret case involving an Australian immigrant who died behind bars.

"There are no more anonymous prisoners in Israel," said Yitzhak Aharonovitch, outgoing Internal Security Minister.

"There is adequate supervision (within the prison system) and the law is upheld, but there is also great concern for state security which must sometimes take covert actions to protect itself," he told public radio.

Prisoner X, who was identified by Australian media as Mossad agent Ben Zygier, was found hanged in his isolation cell in Ayalon prison in Ramle near Tel Aviv in December 2010 -- a case which Israel went to extreme lengths to cover up.

An inquest recently rendered a verdict of suicide, raising questions about how a prisoner in a cell which was monitored 24-hours a day could have taken his own life.

Details from a preliminary inquiry by the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) which were published in Maariv on Tuesday found that Zygier hanged himself with a sheet tied to the window bars in the bathroom of his cell.

"Zygier took the sheet that covered his mattress to the bathroom, supposedly to wash it, and then tied it to the window bars of the small bathroom," the paper said.

An examination of the logbooks of Ayalon prison's control room showed that the guards only looked at footage from his cell every "20 to 25 minutes" because he was not classed as a prisoner with suicidal tendencies, Maariv said, quoting the IPS inquiry.

"Any suicide is unfortunate but if someone is determined to take his own life, there are chances he will ultimately succeed," said Aharonovitch, who is the minister responsible for prisons.

He also confirmed that the post mortem which rendered a verdict of suicide could be released "soon" -- but did not say whether the report would be published in full or with parts redacted for security reasons.

On Sunday, the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and defence announced it would open an "intensive" inquiry into all aspects of Zygier's arrest and death.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130219/no-more-prisoners-held-incognito-israel-minister