Australia Says No Connection Between Zygier, Dubai Hit

SYDNEY (Reuters) -

Australia had no evidence that an emigrant to Israel who died in an Israeli jail in 2010 had been involved in the assassination of a Hamas arms procurer in Dubai, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said on Wednesday.

Carr said Ben Zygier had worked for the Israeli government when he was arrested, but stopped short of confirming he worked for the Mossad. He also said there was no evidence of misuse of any of the Australian passports taken out by Zygier, legally issued to him under new names.

However, Carr said the case raised unresolved questions about Australian passports held by dual citizens who work for a foreign government, and said Australia would lodge the strongest possible protest if it was found that Israel had used an Australian passport for spying.

“We have our own sources. None of them have information at this time that one of his passports was misused. But we are very alive to the possibility,” Carr said as he released a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade report into the case.

“Certainly we would regard it as intolerable that any government would make use of Australian passports for intelligence-gathering purposes.”

Zygier was arrested in February 2010 and charged with security offences that have not been made public. At around the same time, Australia had complained to the Israelis, after its passports had been used in a mission to kill a Hamas arms dealer in Dubai, which the Gulf emirate blamed on the Mossad.

On Feb. 19 this year, Israel confirmed for the first time the affair concerned Zygier, who had earlier been named in an Australian Broadcasting Corporation media report.

One of Zygier’s lawyers later linked him to the Mossad, the Israeli spy agency. An expose aired by Israeli media on Monday said that a senior Mossad official attended Zygier’s funeral in his hometown of Melbourne. Many other details of the case remain the subject of gag orders in Israel.

Australia’s former prime minister Kevin Rudd, prime minister at the time of Zygier’s arrest, on Wednesday said he was not informed of the arrest by his own intelligence agencies.

Rudd also said he was not told of Zygier’s detention ahead of his visit to Israel as foreign minister from Dec. 12 to Dec. 14, 2010, when he met both Israel’s prime minister and foreign minister. Zygier died in custody on Dec. 15.