JERUSALEM, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commented on the "Prisoner X" affair for the first time Sunday saying he has faith in Israel's security and justice systems.
"Our security forces work tirelessly and diligently to ensure that we can live here safely. I have every faith in them and in our legal system," Ynetnews.com quoted Netanyahu as saying at Sunday's cabinet meeting.
It was the first time the prime minister publicly referred to the affair since the exposure by Australian television last week. The Australian Broadcasting Corp. report referred to "Prisoner X," Australian-born Ben Zygier, an Israeli citizen and alleged Mossad operative who committed suicide in an Israeli prison two years ago. Why he was imprisoned has never been explained.
"We are a modern democratic country that guards individual rights and the rights of those under investigation no less than any other country. We are not like other countries. We are more threatened and challenged than other countries and therefore must preserve the proper workings of our security arm," Israel Radio, Maariv, quoted Netanyahu as saying.
Netanyahu's comments came amid reports Sunday that Israeli Justice Ministry and security officials were considering publishing the results of a probe into Zygier's death.
ABC broadcast its story about Zygier last week, but a gag order barred Israeli TV from broadcasting any of the report. However, less than 24 hours later, Israel officially admitted Zygier had been secretly arrested and committed suicide, but declined to release any other details saying they are classified for security reasons.
Since the story broke, it has become apparent the Australian authorities and Zygier's family were informed by Israel of his arrest and his death. He had also been questioned a number of times by Australian security officials concerning his activities, reports out of Australia suggest. The reports said he allegedly traveled to Iran and Syria in the capacity of his activities, but neither Israel or Australia have released further details.