Foreign Minister Bob Carr
Foreign Minister Bob Carr

Bob Carr unsatisfied with handling of Prisoner X's death

THE Federal Government's handling of the highly sensitive death of suspected Israeli spy and dual citizen Ben Zygier was unsatisfactory, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said on Wednesday.

Senator Carr made the first official admission that Mr Zygier was an employee of the Israeli government, on the basis of "open sources", but said he could neither confirm nor deny whether Mr Zygier was actually an intelligence agent for Israel.

Mr Zygier, also known as "Prisoner X", was found dead in an Israeli prison in 2010, after spending about two weeks in the prison.

While some reports have linked Mr Zygier's alleged work for the Israeli Government and the assassination of a Hamas agent in Dubai in May 2010; Senator Carr said the official view of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was that he was not in Dubai at the time, and no evidence suggested he was involved.

He also said there was a "lack of clarity" in the work of the Foreign Affairs Department following Mr Zygier's imprisonment in Israel, where he received more than 50 visits from family and his lawyers.

Senator Carr said at no time did Mr Zygier, his lawyer or family contact the Australian Government for consular support in the case.

"The Zygier case was complex and outside the normal bounds of consular activity. However it is unsatisfactory that there was a lack of clarity over the exercise of consular responsibilities," Senator Carr said.

"It is also unsatisfactory that details of assistance provided by Israeli authorities to Mr Zygier were not sought by or provided to DFAT until the commissioning of this report.

"I acknowledge DFAT's contemporaneous assessment that Israel would not have granted direct consular access to Mr Zygier.

"However it would have been preferable for follow-up information to have been sought in in 2010."

Senator Carr also said the department should lead a whole of government effort to create a protocol for dealing with Australia detained overseas in relation to intelligence issues.

He said he would now wait from more reports from the Israeli Government before taking further action.

Senator Carr also released the internal report from DFAT into the consular handling of Mr Zygier's case, including his recommendations.