Gaza Power Plant's Dirar Abu Sisi, seized by Israel's Mossad in Ukraine, indicted in Israeli court today for developing electrical systems for missiles and mortars, and for membership in Hamas

Despite all the denials that he is not and was not ever a member of Hamas, and was nothing more than a simple electrical power plant engineer, the Gaza Plant’s Power Deputy Director of Operations, Dirar Abu Sisi — who was abducted from a train in the Ukraine on 18-19 February and flown to Israel within hours in the custody of Israeli Mossad agents — was indicted today on shockingly serious charges of developing missiles to fire at Israel.

The indictment was filed Monday, as had been predicted last week, and in a Beersheva court. Abu Sisi has been held for a month in Ashkelon’s Shikma Prison, apparently after nearly two weeks of interrogation by Israel’s General Security Services (GSS or Shin Bet or Shabak) near Petach Tikva.

Haaretz reported today that “Ukraine says Abu Sisi’s disappearance is under investigation. Israel has not provided details on how the Palestinian came into its custody, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week it was a ‘legal arrest’.” This report is posted here. The Haaretz report notes that Hamas has said that Abu Sisi is not a member of the organization — which is banned in Israel as a terrorist organization.

Continue reading Gaza Power Plant's Dirar Abu Sisi, seized by Israel's Mossad in Ukraine, indicted in Israeli court today for developing electrical systems for missiles and mortars, and for membership in Hamas

Israeli Court orders Gaza Power Plant's Abu Sisi to stay in jail seven more days

Haarez’s Yossi Melman reported tonight that a Petah Tikvah court judge has ordered that Gaza Power Plant’s Deputy Director of Operations, Dirar Abu Sisi, to remain in jail another seven days (at least) — at the request of the Israeli General Security Service (Shin Bet – responsible for intelligence about internal security in Israel) and the Israeli Police.

Melman wrote that “The extension of Abu Sisi’s remand was made possible after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein granted the security service special permission to issue the request. Weinstein’s permission is necessary in any case of a request to extend the remand beyond 30 days”.

Melman added: “At the request of the Shin Bet security service and the State Prosecutor’s Office, a comprehensive gag order was issued at the time of Abu Sisi’s arrest, around a month ago. About 10 days ago the order was modified to permit the publication in Israel of details already reported in the foreign media”. Melman’s report in Haaretz can be read in full here.

The gag order was modified by the Petah Tikvah court in response to a petition from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

Abu Sisi was in Ukraine since 18 January in connection with his application for citizenship, filed by his wife, a Ukranian citizen. A month later, he was grabbed while on a train to Kiev, and flown to Israel by men he said identified themselves as agents of Mossad, Israel’s external spy service, He told an Israeli lawyer representing the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) that he was denied access to a lawyer for his first 14 days in Israel, and then for another 11 days.

No charges have yet been filed against Abu Sisi.

UPDATE: Richard Silverstein, who broke the story about Abu Sisi’s kidnapping/extradition from Ukraine to Israel, wrote here that Abu Sisi’s attorney, Smardar Ben Natan, told him that “The state came today with a request to extend the detention in additional 8 days, this was supported by an approval of the senior state attorney, Shay Nitzan, and with the explanation that the prosecution went through the evidence material and asked for 8 additional actions in order to complete the investigation. We argued that if the state does not have enough evidence after 34 days of interrogation, where they should have had evidence to justify the outrageous arrest even before [it occurred], Derar should be released and returned to Ukraine. They were trying to justify the arrest by making him confess [to their] accusations. The court allowed the detention until next Thursday. Derar looked very tired and complained that he can’t stand it anymore and that they are just repeating the same questions over and over again, and trying to break him”.

Silverstein himself asks: “So let’s say Dirar is the worst you can conceive. If you want to kidnap him and render him to Israel wouldn’t you have a case against him before doing so? In what kind of legal system do you arrest someone before having such a case built, and then attempt to figure out what to charge him with based on what he tells you during interrogation? And let’s say he tells you something new you didn’t know during interrogation. Surely, you can file a basic charge and then amplify it with what you learn later. The fact that they have refused to file any charge at all is outrageous. The fact that they come and demand an extension is equally outrageous”.

In a later post, here, Silverstein adds: “It’s unusual in the Israeli legal system for a security suspect to be held longer than 30 days without filing charges. They’ve had Abusisi for 34 days. After that amount of time they still have eight areas in which the top government lawyer says he needs better evidence to prosecute. What’s wrong with this picture? The attorney general has also told Shabak that there is a wide gap between the claims levelled against the kidnapped Gaza engineer and the evidence he’s seen. This does not sound like a happy prosecutor”.

UPDATE: Ben Natan, the attorney for Abu Sisi, told CNN that “I hope that he will be released after these eight days. I expect that after these days, the prosecution might present an indictment. We plan to argue against the future indictment saying that the circumstances of this person’s arrest give him the defense of abusive process,” his lawyer added.

She also told CNN that Abu Sisi “is very exhausted after what he has been through. He sees the interrogation as meant to break his spirit and make him confess things that he did not commit. He was not part of Hamas leadership. He was holding a civil position in the power plant of the Gaza strip and this interrogation is trying to portray him as something that he is not”.

The CNN report, published here, added that “just why the Palestinian engineer was being held and what charges the Israeli government intends to bring against him remain unclear. So far, not even his lawyers have been granted access to the results of his interrogation, they say. ‘We know about the suspicions only generally. The material from the interrogation is still not being disclosed to us and there is a gag order over that, too’, Ben-Natan said after the Gazan engineer appeared in court on Thursday…His lawyer also argued that should it emerge that Israeli intelligence abducted Abu Sisi from the Ukraine, they will have many questions to answer to as their acts will have been in contradiction of international law and treaties between the Ukraine and Israel. ‘There is an extradition convention between the Ukraine and Israel. The European extradition convention applies and both states are party to it and the procedure which was going on in this case was contrary to that convention and to international law’, said Ben-Natan”.

Court today: Gaza Power Plant's Dirar Abu Sisi will be held two more days

The Petah Tikva Court that last week ordered a partial lifting of the gag order that prohibited publication in Israel of news about the imprisonment — in Israel — of Gaza Power Plant’s Deputy Director of Operations, Dirar Abu Sisi, ordered today that he be held for (at least) another two days.

The hearing was closed to the media, according to Israel’s YNet news website.

Abu Sisi was reportedly grabbed while travelling on a train in the Ukraine on 18-19 February and subsequently transferred in Mossad custody and in in rather short order to Israel.

YNet reported here that Abu Sisi’s two lawyers, Smadar Ben-Natan and Tal Linoi, Dirar Abu Sisi’s attorneys “claim he is in poor physical and mental condition, but is cooperating with investigators”, and they said “the engineer told them that he was forcibly removed from his train compartment and brought handcuffed and hooded to an apartment. He said at least six Israeli agents interrogated him before flying him to Israel”.

The YNet report added that “much of the remaining details surrounding the case remain under a gag order”.

Abu Sisi has not yet been charged with anything, though he has been held by force, at first partially incommunicado for some two weeks, under constant lengthy interrogations. He has been in Shikma Prison in Ashkelon for almost two weeks, and may have been in a Shin Bet facility near Petah Tikva for the first two weeks he has been in Israel.

UPDATE: Jonathan Cook has reported that “One of his Israeli lawyers, Smadar Ben Nathan, who met him for the first time at the court hearing on Sunday to lift the gag order, said she believed Israel had carried out the operation based on false information. She called the abduction a ‘miscalculation’, saying interrogators had dropped their original line of questioning. She said the gag order meant she could not discuss the case further”.

Cook added that “Ben Nathan said her client had lost a great deal of weight and his health was deteriorating after more than a month incommunicado. His family is concerned that he is being tortured. Although the Mossad is suspected of carrying out many assassinations on foreign soil — including a hit on a Hamas leader, Mahmoud al Mabhouh, in a Dubai hotel last year — there are few examples of it seizing individuals in foreign countries to bring them to trial. Ben Nathan said she could identify only two similar cases: Israeli agents captured the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Argentina in 1960, and smuggled Mordechai Vanunu, a nuclear whisteblower, out of Italy in 1986. Victor Kattan, an international law expert at the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University, said Israel had broken several human rights laws in seizing him rather than invoking treaty agreements between the Ukraine and Israel and requesting his extradition”. This article can be read in full here, or here.

PCHR lawyer sees Gaza Power Plant's Dirar Abu Sisi in Ashkelon Prison

The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) reported today that a PCHR-retained lawyer met Derar Abu Sisi, the kidnapped Gaza Power Plant’s Director of Operations, yesterday for the first time in an Israeli prison in Ashkelon.

The PCHR said that Abu Sisi was kidnapped by Israel’s national intelligence agency, Mossad, on 18 or 19 February, while he was in the Ukraine — where his Ukrainian wife was applying for citizenship on his behalf. He was then brought to Israel.

This kidnapping, or rendition, is especially strange because AbuSisi apparently intended to leave Gaza anyway.

Abu Sisi told the PCHR lawyer that three men (two in uniform) grabbed him on train in he was taking to Kiev in Ukraine. He was bundled into a car and driven, handcuffed and hooded, to Kiev, where he was taken to an apartment and questioned by six more men who introduced themselves as Mossad.

In short order, Abu Sisi told PCHR’s lawyer, he was “put on a flight” that he said lasted 4 to 5 hours, then transferred to another 1-hour flight — and when it landed, he was told he was in Israel.

The PCHR account of its conversation with Abu Sisi is published on its website, here.

According to PCHR, “Abu Sisi told the PCHR lawyer that he was denied contact with a lawyer for fourteen days. This denial was extended for another eleven days. He said that he was placed under intensive interrogations and that he was denied his legal rights. It should be noted that the Israeli security authorities imposed a media blackout regarding the kidnapping of Abu Sisi and prevented lawyers from visiting him to check on his health and provide legal assistance during the second period … PCHR has concerns over the deterioration of Abu Sisi’s health and notes that he has cholelithiasis and he takes blood thinning medicines. He is experiencing serious psychological problems after going into long and continued investigation session”.

Eyad (Iyad) Alami, Director of PCHR’s Legal Aid Unit, reached Monday evening in Gaza by phone, said that an Israeli lawyer had gone to Askelon Prison on PCHR’s behalf (he noted that Abu Sisi might have seen other lawyers previously). Alami said he could not add anything at this time beyond what was contained in the PCHR statement — other than to say that Abu Sisi had not yet been charged with anything, and could now either be charged or released. In any case, Alami said, PCHR will be following the case.

The Israeli media reported yesterday that a court order had partly removed a gag order banning publication of information on this case. The remainder of the gag order remains for another 30 days…

UPDATE: The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) was the Israeli human rights organization which went to court to get the gag order lifted. Ronit Sela, ACRI spokesperson, said that their petition was filed on 9 March, some 13 days before the Judge ordered the partial lifting of the gag order — but, she noted, the Judge’s order does not even mention Dirar Abu Sisi by name, but instead refers to him only as “the suspect”. Sela said that ACRI has not been in touch with Abu Sisi personally, and that the appeal to the court is a principled action ACRI takes whenever it learns of a gag order, to ensure that a person does not simply disappear. A former reporter herself, Sela says that journalists usually become aware of gag orders only by the absence of mention in the Israeli press about something or someone (this would necessarily also involve some kind of tip, or tip-off). “I’ve been at ACRI for three years, and in that time we’ve handled at least four cases”, Sela said…

Continue reading PCHR lawyer sees Gaza Power Plant's Dirar Abu Sisi in Ashkelon Prison

Israeli responses to Arab protests

Uri Avnery has written, in his weekly article, that [sarcasm alert here] “JERUSALEM IS abuzz with brilliant new ideas. The brightest minds of our political establishment are grappling with the problems created by the ongoing Arab revolution that is reshaping the landscape around us”.

The Avnery article continues: “Minister of Defense Ehud Barak has announced that he is going to ask the US for a grant of another 20 billion dollars for more state-of-the-art fighter planes, missile boats, a submarine, troop carriers and so on. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had his picture taken surrounded by female soldiers – like Muammar Qaddafi in the good old days – looking beyond the Jordan River and announcing that the Israeli army would never ever leave the Jordan valley. According to him, this occupied strip of land is Israel’s vital ‘security border’. This slogan is as old as the occupation itself. It was part of the celebrated Allon Plan, which was designed to surround the West Bank with Israeli territory. Incidentally, the father of the plan, Yigal Allon, was also a leader of the Kibbutz movement, and the Jordan valley looked to him like an ideal area for new Kibbutzim – it is flat, well watered and was sparsely populated. However, times have changed. When Allon was a legendary commander in the 1948 war, he did not even dream of missiles. Today, missiles launched from beyond the Jordan can easily reach my home in Tel Aviv. When Netanyahu declares that we need the Jordan valley in order to stop the Arabs from smuggling missiles into the West Bank, he is, well, a little bit behind the times. When the politicians bravely face the new world, the army dares not lag behind. This week, several division commanders announced that they were preparing for Tahrir-style ‘non-violent mass uprisings’ in the West Bank. Troops are trained, riot control means are stocked. Our glorious army is being prepared for yet another colonial police job … In the meantime, a dozen top politicians, from Avigdor Lieberman down, have been dusting off moribund plans for ‘interim agreements’ – old merchandise sitting sadly on the shelves, with no buyers in sight”.

Can Israel build bridges to possible new “progressive, multi-party” Arab societies?, Avnery asks … and answers: “I believe we can. But the absolute, unalterable precondition is that we make peace with the Palestinian people. [Yet] It is the unshakable – and self-fulfilling – conviction of the entire Israeli establishment that this is impossible. They are quite right – as long as they are in charge, it is indeed impossible. But with another leadership, will things be different? … A peace agreement – signed by the PLO, ratified in a popular referendum, accepted by Hamas – will radically change the attitude of the Arab peoples in general towards Israel. This is not simply a matter of form – it goes deep into the bedrock of national consciousness. Not one of the ongoing uprisings in the various Arab countries is anti-Israeli by nature. Nowhere do the Arab masses cry out for war. Indeed, the idea of war contradicts their basic aspirations: social progress, freedom, a standard of living which allows a life in dignity. However, as long as the occupation of Palestinian territory goes on, the Arab masses will reject conciliation with Israel … Therefore, Israel will crop up in every free election campaign in the Arab countries, and every party will feel obliged to condemn Israel. ONE ARGUMENT against peace, endlessly repeated by our official propaganda, is that Hamas will never accept it. The specter of Islamist movements in other countries winning democratic elections – as Hamas did in Palestine – is painted on the wall as a mortal danger. It may be worthwhile remembering that Hamas was effectively created by Israel in the first place. During the first decades of the occupation, the military governors forbade any kind of Palestinian political activity, even by those who were advocating peace with Israel. Activists were sent to prison. There was only one exception: Islamists. Not only was it impossible to prevent them from assembling in the mosques – the only public space left open – but the military governors were told to encourage Islamist organizations, as a counterforce to the PLO, which was considered the main enemy … On the outbreak of the first intifada, the Islamist movement constituted itself as Hamas (“Islamic Resistance Movement”) and took up the fight”.

Now, Avnery asks, “Will Hamas accept peace? It has declared as much in a roundabout way: if the Palestinian Authority makes peace, they have declared, and if the peace agreement is ratified by a Palestinian referendum, Hamas will accept it as an expression of the people’s will”.

This Avnery article is an interesting compliment to remarks made by former Mossad Director [he served three terms] Efraim (Ephraim) Halevy to members of the Foreign Press Association at a briefing at the Foreign Press Association last Thursday.

Halevy was presenting the results of a study — entitled “Future Borders between Israel and the Palestinian Authority” — done by the Shasha Center for Strategic Studies, which he heads, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Federmann School for Public Policy and Government.

Halevy — who told the journalists: “I was an intelligence officer for 48 years — noted that the study is an academic effort which will be sent to “both addresses” (Israeli and Palestinian?), and which was conducted entirely independently of any developments within the current Israeli government (which he said at another point was “weak”), although Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has announced that he plans to present, soon, some kind of “long-term” but “interim” solution.

Halevy said that the study concluded that the most viable solution would be “no solution” to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. Paradoxically, he said, the participants agreed that an “agreed-upon international border”, meaning a peace treaty (or a part of one) was not possible, though it was desirable, because “We believe that the penalty or price that would be paid for keeping a no-solution situation is so high and so prohibitive … that both sides would prefer any other solution”.

For the Palestinians, he said, “saying that after all these efforts there is no solution, might well mean the end of existence of the Palestinian Authority (PA)”. And, he added, “even if a Palestinian State is declared, but it’s not operative, this would be political bankruptcy”.

“Israel can live longer with no solution”, Halevy said, “but the penalty the Palestinians will pay is much greater … They can’t live with no solution … and for us [Israel], the existence of the PA is a major interest”.

What is needed is not an “end of conflict” (a term used by previous Israeli governments from Ehud Barak to Ehud Olmert), Halevy noted, but rather an “agreement on co-existence”. While the initial reaction might be, “Oh no, we don’t want this”, Halevy said, “at the end of the day, if you have to choose between bad and worse”, this might be the better option.

This would be better, he said, because [a] the time frame would be less, therefore the chances for implementation would be greater (“you cannot make a commitment for somebody else in the future to implement”); and also because [b] the opposition is much less on both sides, because “we wouldn’t be signing off in the end of the conflict, and in Israel we’ll continue to live the kind of live we have today — in terms of economy, education, and style of life”. For the Palestinians, he said, such an agreement on co-existence would also have a virtue: “maybe we really don’t want a referendum because we can’t guarantee the results”, while for Hamas in particular, he said, “they have been asking for a while for a temporary solution, and they, as spoilers, would give the Palestinians the necessary consensus” to support this “agreement on co-existence”.

Halevy said, in answer to a journalist’s question, that yes, he did see such an agreement as a step along the way to a permanent solution and not an end in itself, as the Palestinians fear it would be. He added that ultimately borders would not have the same significance that they have today – but, he said “it will take generations, and much education”.

In any ase, he said there is now “growing unrest in the West Bank — in terms of conflict between Jewish and Arab populations — and a whole list of possible developments that could be negative for Palestinians in the West Bank that would make the whole solution fall apart, and would cause the loss of the benefits if sitting around in cafés in Ramallah and Nablus”. However, he said, he saw “no great appetite to go back to [Intifada-style] violence in the West Bank”.

He noted that he had recently written in Yediot Ahronot that “Israel is a threat-prone society … but fear is not a policy”.

And, he said, “we’ll know in a couple of weeks what the consequences will be in the West Bank and Gaza” of the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere. “I do not feel there will be a copy-cat phenomenon”, but “I do feel there are pressures on the PA to do something, and to do it quick”.

The result of the uprisings, he said, is that “the timetable is much shorter now, and if by September nothing happens, it’s too late”. He indicated later that he was referring to the end-date of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s two year program for the establishment of institutions of a Palestinian State (not, he said, to the possible, or probable, moves in the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly to secure full UN membership for such a Palestinian State).

He said, however, that he didn’t think it’s going to happen, but he did say that by the end of the year we’ll be in a new situation”.

“We don’t have time to mess around”, Halevy added, because the net result is that the uprisings in North Africa have “accelerated the pace of events”.

It was earlier predicted that 2011 would be critical, Halevy said, and “I think yes, 2011 is a critical year”.