The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has summoned Israeli media outlets to a rare meeting after an Australian TV network identified a previously unacknowledged prisoner who committed suicide in a high-security Israeli jail in 2010 after being held for months in secrecy.
Ben Zygier, a Jewish father of two from Melbourne, moved to Israel from Melbourne in 2000 and became an Israeli spy after being recruited by Mossad, Australia's ABC News has reported.
Zygier, 34, who used the name Ben Alon in Israel, was found hanged in a cell at the maximum security Ayalon prison near Tel Aviv after being held there in total isolation, according to the network's "Foreign Correspondent" program.
The existence of a prisoner being held in "utter isolation from the outside world," with no contact with other prisoners and no visitors, first appeared on Israel's Ynet news website, the program said.
The report, which said he was being held for unspecified crimes in a private wing of the Ayalon prison — known as Unit 15, which had a single cell historically used to hold only the most important and significant prisoners — quickly disappeared from the website, which is published by Yedioth Ahronoth, the nation’s leading Hebrew-language newspaper.
According to the London Telegraph, the cell holding the mystery prisoner was "specially built to house Yigal Amir, the Israeli extremist who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin, the former prime minister, in 1995."
Israel's domestic intelligence services had reportedly obtained a court order blocking publication of anything connected to the matter on national security grounds – and even forbade the gag order being reported.
Meantime, according to the Israeli Daily Haaretz, the Israeli Prime Minister's office called Israeli editors to remind them of the court order.
Aluf Benn, the editor of the Israeli daily Haaretz, told The New York Times that the government also forced news organization to delete items about the Australian reports from their websites.
Benn said of the Netanyahu administration:
"They live in a previous century, unfortunately. Today, whatever is blocked in news sites is up in the air on Facebook walls and Twitter feeds. You can’t just make a story disappear. I hope that they’re more updated in whatever they do professionally."