A deputy premier insisted Saturday that Israel does not jail suspects with nobody's knowledge, in a first official comment on the case of an Australian thought to be a Mossad agent who died in prison.
"We are not a country that acts in the dark," Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon told Channel 2 television.
"This is a country that when as an extreme measure we need to isolate a prisoner or even imprison him under false identity, it is done with legal supervision, with the knowledge of the authorities, under the supervision of the legislature and with his family's knowledge," he said.
On Wednesday, Israel confirmed having held an Israeli-Australian citizen in solitary confinement under a false name, following reports that "Prisoner X" who committed suicide in 2010 was an Australian Jew linked to Mossad.
A justice ministry statement said his family was informed of his arrest and that he had legal representation.
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The man, identified by Australian media as Mossad agent Ben Zygier, known as "Prisoner X", died in a secret prison near Tel Aviv in 2010 in a case Israel went to extreme lengths to cover up, imposing media gag orders.
Yaalon would not confirm that Prisoner X was Zygier nor provide details on the nature of his suspected offence.
"There are extreme situations -- we are a special country as far as the security situation goes -- in which for security reasons, even life-endangering situations, such extreme measures must be taken," he said.
"One must assume that if we reached this situation, there was a mishap that necessitated the measures taken by the body at hand," Yaalon added in reference to Israel's Mossad spy agency.
On Saturday, The Australian newspaper reported that Australian intelligence had detailed knowledge of the case of a Melbourne man thought to have been an Israeli spy well before he died.
An unnamed Israeli source told the paper that Australian officials had suspected the man known as "Prisoner X" of spying for Israel and had interrogated him, adding "they (the Australians) knew many things".