JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli military intelligence officer who died in prison had deliberately endangered a "big secret", the top general said on Wednesday, lifting the veil on a mystery gripping the country.
News of the officer's May 17 death surfaced this month. His name is barred from publication. The military has said he had served in a technological unit and had been under indictment for security offences that did not entail spying for foreign powers.
"He committed crimes of the utmost gravity. He committed them knowingly, he committed them deliberately, for reasons I do not know how to describe," Lieutenant-General Aviv Kohavi, the armed forces chief, said in a speech rebroadcast on Israeli TV.
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 being investigated, he added.
In 2010, a member of Israel's Mossad spy service committed suicide while imprisoned in isolation on suspicion of leaking secrets. Authorities had not registered him under his real name while behind bars, leading local media to dub him "Prisoner X".
The dead officer, Kohavi said, was not another "Prisoner X" as the officer had been imprisoned under his real name, and had been in touch with family, friends and other inmates.
Kohavi, a former chief of military intelligence, said the officer had served under him, deeming him "excellent" then.
The military has said that the officer had confessed to some of the allegations against him, adding that he had "acted independently, out of personal motives, without ideological, nationalistic or financial motives".
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Mark Potter)