Israeli military unveils mysterious prison death

Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks during the Israeli Air Force pilot graduation ceremony at Hatzerim Air Base in southern Israel on June 27, 2019 . REUTERS / Amir Cohen / File Photo

An Israeli military intelligence officer who died in prison had deliberately endangered a “great secret,” the senior general said on Wednesday, lifting the veil on a mystery gripping the country.

News of the officer’s death on May 17 surfaced this month. His name is prohibited from publication. The military said he served in a tech unit and was charged with security breaches that did not involve spying on behalf of foreign powers.

“He committed crimes of the highest gravity. He knowingly committed them, he committed them deliberately, for reasons that I do not know how to describe,” said Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, chief of the forces. armed forces, in a speech rebroadcast on Israeli television.

The officer was jailed “to protect a big secret that he almost compromised, something we stopped at the last minute,” Kohavi said. The death – which the military described as following a sudden illness – was under investigation, he added.

In 2010, a member of the Israeli Mossad spy service committed suicide while in solitary confinement on suspicion of leaking secrets. Authorities did not register him under his real name while he was behind bars, leading local media to nickname him “Prisoner X”.

The deceased officer, Kohavi said, was not another “prisoner X” as the officer had been jailed under his real name and had been in contact with family, friends and other detainees.

Kohavi, a former head of military intelligence, said the officer served under him, deeming him “excellent” at the time.

The military said the officer confessed to some of the allegations against him, adding that he “acted independently, for personal reasons, without ideological, nationalist or financial motives”.

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