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The tombstone of Ben Zygier stands at Chevra Kadisha Jewish Cemetery in Melbourne, Australia on Feb 15. 2013. Foreign reports about the mysterious death of the Australian-born Israeli man who allegedly worked for Israel's Mossad spy agency and died in an Israeli prison two years ago have sparked a rare backlash against the country's well-respected security agencies. (Andrew Brownbill/AP)
The tombstone of Ben Zygier stands at Chevra Kadisha Jewish Cemetery in Melbourne, Australia on Feb 15. 2013. Foreign reports about the mysterious death of the Australian-born Israeli man who allegedly worked for Israel's Mossad spy agency and died in an Israeli prison two years ago have sparked a rare backlash against the country's well-respected security agencies. (Andrew Brownbill/AP)

ESPIONAGE

Doubt cast on Australian’s reported link to killing of Hamas operative Add to ...

A forensic report commissioned by Reuters said on Friday that a suspect in the assassination of a Hamas commander in Dubai and a deceased Australian immigrant, reported to have been an Israeli spy, were not the same man.

Israel has released few details on the case of Melbourne-born Ben Zygier, reported to have been a Mossad recruit found dead in an isolated prison cell in 2010. The silence has led to widespread speculation about the man’s secret arrest and alleged crime.

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The Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida on Thursday quoted unidentified Western sources as saying Mr. Zygier took part in the killing by a Mossad hit team of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mahbouh in Dubai in January, 2010.

Mr. Zygier is believed to have been arrested in February, 2010.

In 2010, Dubai released images of 26 suspects, taken from CCTV footage and from forged passports they were believed to have been travelling on. Footage showed some suspects apparently in different disguises, some of them in wigs.

Reuters commissioned a comparison of Mr. Zygier’s photos and that of one of the Dubai hit-squad suspects most likely to have been Mr. Zygier, were he to have been one of the 26 people implicated by Dubai police and travelling under a false identity and in disguise.

That suspect would likely have been a man who, according to Dubai police, travelled with a forged Australian passport under the name Joshua Daniel Bruce, born in Melbourne, which is also Mr. Zygier’s birthplace.

The facial comparison report by Anley Consulting Forensic Imagery Analysis in Dorset, England, that compared Mr. Zygier’s photos with the image of the person in the forged Bruce passport, concluded that they were not the same man.

Australia complained to Israel in 2010 after Dubai said forged Australian passports were used by the Mossad squad. Mr. al-Mabhouh’s killers, authorities in the emirate said, also had British, Irish, French and German passports.

Joshua Daniel Bruce is believed to be an alias of the man in the forged passport’s photo, which also appears on Interpol’s wanted list. He appears to be of the same age group as the 34-year-old Mr. Zygier was and from all 26 suspects he bears the most similarities to Mr. Zygier.

A second facial-comparison expert contacted by Reuters said, based only on a preliminary review of the photos, that there were some similarities in the men’s faces that could not totally exclude the possibility of them being the same person, but that two major discrepancies made that unlikely.

The Kuwaiti newspaper report did not single out any of the 26 Dubai hit-squad suspects as being Mr. Zygier. It is possible that others involved in Mr. al-Mabhouh’s assassination were not caught on camera or identified by investigators.

Israel has not confirmed or denied involvement in Mr. al-Mabhouh’s killing.

Media reports in Australia have said that Mr. Zygier carried out Mossad missions abroad while using Australian passports and travelling under different names and that he was under Australian intelligence investigation for espionage.

Israel has neither denied nor confirmed Mr. Zygier was a Mossad officer. It has only said that in 2010 it held a dual-nationality Israeli in prison under a false name for security reasons and that this man committed suicide in jail.

Avigdor Feldman, an Israeli lawyer with whom Mr. Zygier briefly consulted while in prison, said Mr. Zygier died after being indicted for “grave crimes” but before being tried. Mr. Zygier had denied the charges against him but was considering a plea bargain, Mr. Feldman said.

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