JEWISH NEWS: Kroger says Government response on Zygier is “disgrace” 18Feb13 February 18, 2013

The Australian Jewish News    -    14 February 2013

zygier1-450x250The chief opposition whip in the Senate has branded the government’s failure to explain what it knew or didn’t know about the case of Ben Zygier a “disgrace”.

A statement released by Helen Kroger’s office on Thursday afternoon reads as follows:

“IN an extraordinary development in the case of Ben Zygier, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade this morning revealed it does not know whether the then Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith, was informed of the Australian’s detention in Israel in 2010.

“The mysterious story of ‘Prisoner X’ and Mr Zygier’s tragic death in custody has occupied national attention for days.

“Yet, the newly-appointed Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Varghese AO, told a Senate Estimates hearing this morning that he was unable to confirm whether the then Prime Minister or Foreign Minister had been briefed at the time of the crisis.

“Department officials received advice of Mr Zygier’s detention through intelligence channels on February 24, 2010.

“In response to questions from Senator Helen Kroger, Mr Vargese told the hearing that “I cannot give you a definite answer because I haven’t been able to see the written records, if they exist, on whether the Foreign Minister was advised at the time.”

“That’s obviously an issue that I need to look at in terms of processes in the department and how we cross-reference information,” Mr Varghese said.

“Senator Kroger said it was extraordinary that the Department could not provide information regarding who in the government had been across the matter or even confirm if they had any official records of a briefing.

“Why is that you have not been able to then satisfy yourself as to the entire sequence of events in relation to this matter in the last couple of days? You have a huge department under you, to support you,” Senator Kroger said.

“It is a disgrace that no one from the Prime Minister down can shed any light on the tragic death of an Australian citizen abroad.”

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