Israel hands out 20 years jail to a close Arafat associate

Israel on Sunday handed out 20 years imprisonment to a "right hand" man of former Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat.

Jerusalem: Israel on Sunday handed out 20 years imprisonment to a "right hand" man of former Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat after he was found guilty of "arms dealing" including arranging 50 tonnes of lethal weapons which could have been used to target the Jewish territories.

Fuad Shubaki, 70, once considered Arafat`s "right hand", is accused of arms dealing, and funding and organising the Karin A weapons ship captured by Israeli naval commandos in the Red Sea on January 3, 2002 carrying 50 tonnes of weaponry destined for the PA, including rockets and missiles that could have reached Ben-Gurion International Airport and major Israeli cities from Palestinian territories.

Shubaki was then incharge of PA funds and allegedly paid millions of dollars for the consignment to Iran to aid Arafat`s Fatah party affiliated militant faction, Al Aqsa Martyr`s Brigades, in planning attacks against Israel.

He was also sentenced to five years probation as the military court ruled that the security offences he was found guilty of dictate a harsher sentence despite his old age and unstable health. The prosecution had asked for a life sentence.

Shubaki however insisted that that he was innocent arguing that he has been working towards achieving peace between the two sides.

"I was responsible for a budget in the Palestinian security organisation. I have nothing to do with weapons. I was responsible for salaries, clothes, fuel, cars and food for people working at the Palestinian Authority."

Implicating Arafat in the deal, the former Palestinian strongman said, "I had nothing to do with this. Any document issued would be signed by the `Rais` (Arafat) and we would just carry out orders. I didn`t know it was an amount for 1,000 tons of weapons".

Shubaki was first arrested by the PA at the United States` request and was held in a prison in Jericho together with the murderers of Israeli Minister Rehavam Ze`evi. In March 2006, the Israel Defence Forces raided the prison and arrested Shubaki and Ze`evi`s murderers, after receiving information that the PA planned to release them.

During the investigation, the Arafat aide admitted that the PA had funded cells which operated against Israel, using tax funds it received from the Jewish state.

Shubaki also said that Iran and Hezbollah were behind the Karin A weapons ship, in coordination with senior PA officials, and that several Palestinian officials had received funds to purchase weapons. The trial lasted three years.

Surprisingly, Shubaki`s name was included in the list
of prisoners Hamas is demanding in exchange for the release of
kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalid.

Bureau Report