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What Did 'Prisoner X' Do? There May Be An Answer

The story of "Prisoner X" is dominating the media in both Australia and Israel.
William West
AFP/Getty Images
The story of "Prisoner X" is dominating the media in both Australia and Israel.

If you've followed the story of "Prisoner X," the mysterious Israeli-Australian national, who allegedly committed suicide in an Israeli prison after being secretly held, you have no doubt asked yourself: What did Ben Zygier, who worked for Israel's spy agency, do for the country to imprison him and then keep everything about his arrest — or even his existence — secret for years?

The Australian Broadcasting Co., which unearthed Zygier's story to begin with, just went public with a piece that says Zygier sabotaged an Israeli mission to bring back the remains of captured Israeli soldiers thought to be buried in Lebanon.

Like much about this case, it's a wild, convoluted story, so we encourage you to click over and read the entire story.

As we've reported, ABC had previously said Zygier was accused of passing state secrets. Today, we get more details: Essentially, Israel had a plan in place to recover the bodies of three Israeli soldiers killed by Syrian forces during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

The soldiers were thought to be buried in Lebanon and Israel had recruited a Lebanese man to recover the bodies. The ABC story is based on interviews with Ziad Al Homsi, whom the network reports was supposed to organize a group to recover the bodies.

With his spy career at a low point and without the permission of his agency, Zygier, the network reports, tried to recruit a member of Hezbollah to help al Homsi out. Instead, the network, adds, the member of Hezbollah outed al Homsi, who was put in jail.

The operation was blown and "Prisoner X" was born.

Keep in mind, this is the reporting of ABC. Israel has not — and likely won't — comment on the case.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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