In my past coverage, I suggested that Capt. Tomer Eiges, who was imprisoned by the IDF for breaching security regulations, may have died by suicide in prison by overdosing on anti-psychotic medication prescribed for him by the prison psychiatrist. He was also taking anti-depressant medication. Published medical reports indicate it’s possible to take one’s life by overdosing on either type of medication.
Both Amos Harel in Haaretz and Ynet now report that this is the leading theory of how he died. The toxicology results have been returned and he had both drugs in his system. It’s no surprise that someone imprisoned for nine months, facing the pressure of a heavy-handed State prosecution seeking to punish him severely with a 10-year prison sentence, and likely believing the case against him to be unfair and unjust, might be driven to consider suicide.
Avner Cohen and I suggested in a post we co-authored that it appears that Eiges was arrested because he sought to publish top-secret computer code and methods he had developed during his years in the cyber-intelligence division of AMAN (IDF military intelligence) before he left army service. In an interview, the family attorney said that he was driven in his intelligence work by “curiosity”:
He understood the potential for damage [in his work]. His motivation was personal. It was a matter of curiosity. An desire for achievement [in his field].”
It also appears that Eiges was doing something that almost everyone in the cyber-security unit did before entering the civilian job market–they sought to interest future employers in their work and the coding innovations they had perfected.
In his op-ed in today’s Haaretz Avner suggests that there could have been bad blood between Eiges and his commander. Perhaps jealousy over Eiges’ achievements. Perhaps a battle between two stubborn individuals in which a subordinate feels mistreated or disrespected and the superior seeks revenge. It would seem that Eiges believed that whatever he did was not much different than what thousands of others in his circumstances had done.
Though the IDF conveniently claims that Eiges confessed to the charges against him, I don’t believe this. Certainly not in the way the army articulated it. This young man was not only brilliant, I’m sure he had a strong sense of pride and ownership of the products of his own mind. He sought recognition of this perhaps by publishing them in a venue where they would be seen by his peers. Perhaps this led to his arrest.
But if the army claim that he confessed was right, why didn’t he agree to the ten-year jail sentence the prosecution offered? Clearly, he rotted away in prison for nine months because he refused the deal. Being a intelligent person, he would have realized that the military justice system was rigged against him. Either he copped a plea and took the ten years or they could keep him there forever.
I can understand how someone with great intelligence and pride would rebel against these two wholly unjust options and choose a third one: suicide. In this sense, his death would serve as a protest against the injustices committed against him. And this is precisely what has happened. Without knowing how events would play out after his death, his desperate act has rocked the military hierarchy and even forced the chief of staff to express regret, while concealing or lying about almost everything else in the case.
Finally, if Eiges was both psychotic and depressed, these are clearly two conditions which could lead to a suicide attempt. Why didn’t the prison authorities understand this potential and offer more support and more oversight of his condition? Is there any such support offered to prisoners in severe distress? I remember reading that Ben Zygier, before he committed suicide, had seen a social worker. One had even been alerted to his deteriorating condition just before his death. But the follow-up was negligible and he died alone, deserted by his wife, and unsupported. These two needless deaths are two deaths too many for the IDF.