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Prisoner X story alarms Palestinian families

Feb. 19, 2013 10:33 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 20, 2013 8:44 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – The exposure of Israel's "Prisoner X" story has alarmed several Palestinian families whose children went missing and they never learned of their fate.

One of these families is Nawati family from the Gaza Strip. Family members say that Muatazz Nawati was working in Israel in the 1980s before he booked a flight to Germany. In 1982, he left his home to Israel to confirm his ticket to Germany and never came back, according to his mother.

“He left to his work as usual, and he had with him his flight tickets to confirm them. When he did not arrive in the evening as usual, we realized that something has happened to him. We thought of road accidents and such possibilities, so we notified the police but to no avail. We knew that he disappeared."

"He used to work in an Ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood, and we considered that they could have kidnapped him, as we knew they hate Arabs and Muslims. We considered all possibilities,” the mother told Ma’an TV in Gaza.

Palestinian prisoner researchers accuse Israel of holding Palestinians in secret jails.

Prisoner X

Israel released details on Tuesday about the 2010 jailhouse suicide of an Australian immigrant reported to have been a disgraced Mossad spy, saying he hanged himself in his cell and no foul play was involved.

The affair was kept under wraps until it emerged last week with an Australian television expose that identified the dead man as 34-year-old Ben Zygier, a likely Israeli foreign intelligence recruit held for suspected security offences.

Without explicitly naming Zygier, Israel has confirmed that at the time it had a dual citizen in custody and under alias to stem serious harm to national interests, on which it would not elaborate. The Dec. 15 date it gave for the detainee's death matched that etched on the Melbourne-born Jew's gravestone.

Easing a gag order, an Israeli court allowed the publication on Tuesday of the results of a judge's inquiry, completed two months ago, into the death.

The investigation showed the prisoner looped a wet sheet around his neck, tied it to the bars of a bathroom window in his cell and hanged himself, choking to death.

Israeli media reported the bathroom area was not covered, for privacy reasons, by closed-circuit television cameras that transmitted images from other parts of the isolation cell.

Ruling out foul play on the basis of medical and physical evidence, Judge Dafna Blatman-Kardai said entry to the cell was monitored by cameras and examination of their footage showed no one "intervened in causing the death of the deceased".

She said his family -- which has not commented publicly on the case -- agreed with the findings.

"A small amount of sedative was found in his blood. There was no alcohol or drugs. This does not change my determination ... about the cause of death," a forensic medical expert was quoted as saying in the judge's report.

Civil liberties groups and some lawmakers in Israel, protesting at the state censorship restricting local reporting on the case, have demanded to know whether Zygier's rights were violated by his months of incarceration, isolated from other inmates, and whether his death could have been prevented.

Those calls were echoed in Australia, where media suggested Zygier had been suspected of betraying Mossad missions to Canberra's spy services. Australia was angered in 2010 by the fraudulent use of its passports in the assassination of a Hamas arms procurer in Dubai, which the Gulf emirate blamed on Israel.
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